Hemon's prose suffers occasionally from the overstudious diction of the non-native speaker, but he is clearly a writer of...

THE QUESTION OF BRUNO

STORIES

Uneven but not uninteresting stories from first-timer Hemon, a Conradian figure, an exile from Sarajevo who has lived in Chicago for eight years, remaking himself into an American writer.

The collection is comprised of seven stories and a novella, `Blind Joszef Pronek & Dead Souls`—and as the title of that longer work suggests—some of the author’s often cynical humor can be traced back to other East European writers like Gogol and Kafka. But there are also traces of influences as various as Borges and Calvino in the puzzle-joke story `The Life and Work of Alphonse Kauders.` Hemon seems fascinated with trying to reproduce the creepy tactility of decay and, as might be expected from a refugee from the former Yugoslavia, extremes of senseless violence. At its worst, the result is a piece like `A Coin,` which recounts the suffering of the besieged civilians of Sarajevo in somewhat shopworn, overfamiliar terms unintentionally echoing the voyeurism that it accuses Western journalists of perpetrating. On the other hand, particularly in the novella, a recounting of the wanderings of a Sarajevan transplanted to Chicago at the outset of the civil war, and in `The Sorge Spy Ring,` a longish, clever mix of autobiographical reminiscence and historical fact with a totally unexpected dark ending, Hemon displays a considerable command of sudden shifts in tone, shuttling swiftly but surely between black comedy and bleak reality. The volume is shot through with a dry, deadpan humor that is clearly a defensive carapace grown in response to decades of Stalinist/Titoist falsifications and repression, as well as an understandable fascination with the grim detritus of Balkan history.

Hemon's prose suffers occasionally from the overstudious diction of the non-native speaker, but he is clearly a writer of some promise.

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-49923-X

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

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

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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THE COMPLETE SHORT STORIES OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY

THE FINCA VIGIA EDITION

What's most worthy in this hefty, three-part volume of still more Hemingway is that it contains (in its first section) all the stories that appeared together in the 1938 (and now out of print) The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. After this, however, the pieces themselves and the grounds for their inclusion become more shaky. The second section includes stories that have been previously published but that haven't appeared in collections—including two segments (from 1934 and 1936) that later found their way into To Have and Have Not (1937) and the "story-within-a-story" that appeared in the recent The garden of Eden. Part three—frequently of more interest for Flemingway-voyeurs than for its self-evident merits—consists of previously unpublished work, including a lengthy outtake ("The Strange Country") from Islands in the Stream (1970), and two poor-to-middling Michigan stories (actually pieces, again, from an unfinished novel). Moments of interest, but luckiest are those who still have their copies of The First Forty-Nine.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1987

ISBN: 0684843323

Page Count: 666

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1987

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