Translator Schaefer and her publisher have performed an invaluable literary service. One hopes more of Schnitzler’s eerily...




One of the most distinctive and compelling voices of the early modernist movement is heard again in this elegant collection of nine urbane, perversely comic, deeply disturbing stories.

The Austrian Schnitzler (1862–1931), who is perhaps better known for his equally incisive plays (including The Merry-Go-Round and The Green Cockatoo), was a practicing physician whose austere, clinical studies of sexual obsession and abnormal psychology won the admiration of his countryman Sigmund Freud and compare favorably with the intense, exploratory fiction of Svevo, Musil, Bernanos, and Moravia. Schnitzler’s mastery of the technique of interior monologue is brilliantly demonstrated by such deftly structured contes as “The Dead Are Silent” (a chilling glimpse into the mind and heart of a married woman who survives the carriage accident in which her lover dies) and “The Second” (whose narrator’s ingenuous celebration of the “code” of dueling in fact reveals the barbarity of that practice). Even better is the title novella, about a young army officer whose lofty criticism of a comrade’s gambling addiction ironically foreshadows his own moral collapse. Schnitzler’s complex presentations of the ambiguities of love and hatred, sanity and madness, convention and anarchy include a wittily extended jeu in which a celebrated opera singer blithely manipulates her several admirers and lovers (“Baron von Leisenborg’s Destiny”) and the novella “Dream Story” (bastardized unpardonably in Stanley Kubrick’s brain-dead film Eyes Wide Shut). This latter is an ingenious blend of realism and dream: here, a happily married physician and his faithful wife yield themselves up to erotic adventuring and fantasizing, experiencing a Walpurgisnächt that tests their sexual and psychic limits, and opens their eyes to the realities of their natures together and apart. It’s a great story (reminiscent, in an odd way, of Joyce’s “The Dead’), perhaps Schnitzler’s best.

Translator Schaefer and her publisher have performed an invaluable literary service. One hopes more of Schnitzler’s eerily precise fiction (and perhaps a selection of his plays?) is soon forthcoming.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2002

ISBN: 1-56663-386-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2001

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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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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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