by Aaron Kreuter ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 1, 2018
A singular, if uneven, collection of tales with flashes of brilliance.
A debut volume of short stories explores Canadian Jewish identity.
Seven stories are offered here, united by the themes of religion, love, and outsiders. The collection opens with “Restaurants,” an intriguing tale about Sarah, a Jewish waitress who embarks on an affair with Samir, a Palestinian co-worker. Kreuter cleverly considers the fling from the perspectives of both lovers and David, Sarah’s boyfriend. This is followed by “Amsterdam,” which tells of three young Canadian Jewish men who take a detour from their visit to Israel to have a blowout in Amsterdam before heading home. They smoke weed and visit the red-light district—a generic tale but for the fact they are tormented by the memory of Anne Frank. Other stories include the offbeat “Searching for Crude,” about a wealthy CEO who is mesmerized by a guitarist named Crude and becomes obsessed with matching his musicianship, and “Ninety-Nine,” about two close friends who are riven apart when one chooses to become “a traditional Jewish woman.” The volume ends with a longer, yet somewhat nondescript, tale about a group of girls following a band across America. The collection shows signs of a burgeoning talent but lacks consistency. In the opening of the book, Kreuter’s writing is a potent cocktail of racial tension and carnal desire: “That first time he came inside her and his whole body emptied out, his history and sorrows and worries purged for what felt like the first time.” By the close, his prose is noticeably diluted. “Chasing the Tonic” offers a watery contemporary regurgitation of 1960s hippiedom: “What did he believe in? The open road, music, the night sky, that, as he put it more than once, ‘Music and dancing and the redistribution of wealth can change the world.’ ” Kreuter’s narratives always deliver strong, concise messages. For example “Searching for Crude” attacks the rapacious nature of capitalist endeavors. But as a new writer, he tends to unnecessarily telegraph this lesson: “He didn’t want to be Crude. He wanted to consume him, to take his unrefined magic and keep it locked in a safe.” The author should trust his readership and the strength of his storylines rather than feel the need to hammer his points home. Still, Kreuter’s writing at its best has an addictive intensity that will leave most readers wanting more.A singular, if uneven, collection of tales with flashes of brilliance.
Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2018
Page Count: 208
Publisher: Tightrope Books, Inc.
Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Tim O’Brien ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 28, 1990
It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.
Pub Date: March 28, 1990
Page Count: 256
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990
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by Russell Banks ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 12, 2013
Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.
One of America’s great novelists (Lost Memory of Skin, 2011, etc.) also writes excellent stories, as his sixth collection reminds readers.
Don’t expect atmospheric mood poems or avant-garde stylistic games in these dozen tales. Banks is a traditionalist, interested in narrative and character development; his simple, flexible prose doesn’t call attention to itself as it serves those aims. The intricate, not necessarily permanent bonds of family are a central concern. The bleak, stoic “Former Marine” depicts an aging father driven to extremes because he’s too proud to admit to his adult sons that he can no longer take care of himself. In the heartbreaking title story, the death of a beloved dog signals the final rupture in a family already rent by divorce. Fraught marriages in all their variety are unsparingly scrutinized in “Christmas Party,” Big Dog” and “The Outer Banks." But as the collection moves along, interactions with strangers begin to occupy center stage. The protagonist of “The Invisible Parrot” transcends the anxieties of his hard-pressed life through an impromptu act of generosity to a junkie. A man waiting in an airport bar is the uneasy recipient of confidences about “Searching for Veronica” from a woman whose truthfulness and motives he begins to suspect, until he flees since “the only safe response is to quarantine yourself.” Lurking menace that erupts into violence features in many Banks novels, and here, it provides jarring climaxes to two otherwise solid stories, “Blue” and “The Green Door.” Yet Banks quietly conveys compassion for even the darkest of his characters. Many of them (like their author) are older, at a point in life where options narrow and the future is uncomfortably close at hand—which is why widowed Isabel’s fearless shucking of her confining past is so exhilarating in “SnowBirds,” albeit counterbalanced by her friend Jane’s bleak acceptance of her own limited prospects.Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.
Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2013
Page Count: 304
Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2013
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013
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