THE HAMMON AND THE BEANS AND OTHER STORIES

Paredes, an ethnographer, literary critic, and social historian of national repute, is virtually the founder of Chicano cultural studies as an academic discipline. He has also dabbled in fiction, and this volume represents the first time his short stories have been collected in one place. Written between 1940 and 1953, all but two of these 17 stories are being published for the first time. A lengthy critical introduction by Ram¢n Sald°var of Stanford University situates Paredes's work in a larger historical context, which is absolutely essential to understanding several of the stories that draw on the troubled history of the Chicano community in Texas and (in the case of the story ``The Gringo'') during the events of the Mexican War. The stories fall into several categories: Several, including the title offering, deal with the problems of Mexican-American children growing up in poverty near the US Army's Fort Jones; the best works in the collection are set among the US Army of occupation in Japan; others subtly puncture the myth of machismo. At his best, Paredes writes with darkly tragic irony of men trapped in self-imposed images of masculinity, whether Chicano or Anglo, and of young boys and their first encounters with death. The last two stories in the collection represent a radical departure from the tone of the rest: They are raucous picaresques centering on the machinations of a wily Chicano trickster figure, Johnny Picadero. These bring the book to a surprisingly rollicking conclusion and make one yearn for more stories about Picadero. The collection serves a useful historical purpose, documenting yet another facet of the American literary experience. As literature, the book is uneven, with several of the stories little more than anecdotes. However, the occupation stories and the Picadero tales are well worth reading.

Pub Date: July 1, 1994

ISBN: 1-55885-071-6

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Arte Público

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1994

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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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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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