THE MOONS OF JUPITER

In Lives of Girls and Women and The Beggar Maid (the Flo and Rose stories), Canadian short-story writer Munro drew unusual strength and sharpness from the vivid particulars of growing-up with—and growing out from—a stifling yet intense Canadian background. Here, though a few of these eleven new stories reach back to that core material effectively, the focus is looser, the specifics are less arresting, and Munro's alter-egos have moved on to a real yet not-always-compelling dilemma: over 40, long-divorced, children grown, these women waver "on the edge of caring and not caring"—about men, love, sex. In "Dulse," an editor/poet vacations alone, away from a troubled affair—and is confronted by sensuality on the one hand and the "lovely, durable shelter" of celibate retreat on the other. Two other stories feature the hurt and compromise involved in "casual" affairs—casual for the man, perhaps, less so for the woman. And in "Labor Day Dinner," the divorced woman is trying again, but with a sometimes-cruel man ("Your armpits are flabby," he says) whose love must be periodically revived by her displays of (unfeigned) indifference. Still, if these studies of to-care-or-not-to-care uneasiness lack the vigor of earlier Munro (at their weakest they're reminiscent of Alice Adams), a few other pieces are reassuringly full-blooded: "The Turkey Season," about a teenage girl who takes a part-time job as a turkey-gutter and learns some thorny first lessons about unrequited love; the title story, in which a woman's trip to the planetarium illuminates her turmoil (a dying father, a rejecting daughter) with metaphor; wonderful, resonant reminiscences about the contrasting spinsters on both sides of a family. And Munro's versatility is on display in other variations on the caring/not-caring tension—between two aging brothers, between two octogenarians in a nursing-home. Only one story here, in fact, is second-rate ("Accident," an unshapely parable of adultery, guilt, and Fate); Munro's lean, graceful narrative skills are firmly demonstrated throughout. But the special passion and unique territory of her previous collections are only intermittently evident here—making this something of a let-down for Munro admirers.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1982

ISBN: 0679732705

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1982

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

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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

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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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