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

READ REVIEW

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Readers seeking a tale well told will take pleasure in King’s sometimes-scary, sometimes merely gloomy pages.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

THE BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS

STORIES

A gathering of short stories by an ascended master of the form.

Best known for mega-bestselling horror yarns, King (Finders Keepers, 2015, etc.) has been writing short stories for a very long time, moving among genres and honing his craft. This gathering of 20 stories, about half previously published and half new, speaks to King’s considerable abilities as a writer of genre fiction who manages to expand and improve the genre as he works; certainly no one has invested ordinary reality and ordinary objects with as much creepiness as King, mostly things that move (cars, kid’s scooters, Ferris wheels). Some stories would not have been out of place in the pulp magazines of the 1940s and ’50s, with allowances for modern references (“Somewhere far off, a helicopter beats at the sky over the Gulf. The DEA looking for drug runners, the Judge supposes”). Pulpy though some stories are, the published pieces have noble pedigrees, having appeared in places such as Granta and The New Yorker. Many inhabit the same literary universe as Raymond Carver, whom King even name-checks in an extraordinarily clever tale of the multiple realities hidden in a simple Kindle device: “What else is there by Raymond Carver in the worlds of Ur? Is there one—or a dozen, or a thousand—where he quit smoking, lived to be 70, and wrote another half a dozen books?” Like Carver, King often populates his stories with blue-collar people who drink too much, worry about money, and mistrust everything and everyone: “Every time you see bright stuff, somebody turns on the rain machine. The bright stuff is never colorfast.” Best of all, lifting the curtain, King prefaces the stories with notes about how they came about (“This one had to be told, because I knew exactly what kind of language I wanted to use”). Those notes alone make this a must for aspiring writers.

Readers seeking a tale well told will take pleasure in King’s sometimes-scary, sometimes merely gloomy pages.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1167-9

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more