THE COMPLETE STORIES

A generous, invaluable volume that collects the 53 stories published during his 40-year career by a master of both realism and surrealism, a writer who begins to look more and more like one of the very best modern American writers. This differs from the earlier Stories (1983) in including the total contents of such acclaimed (and award-winning) collections as The Magic Barrel, as well as several early efforts (of which the forgotten "Armistice" is especially impressive), and a scattering of others retrieved from the magazines in which they originally appeared. An unmistakable voice, terse and ironical while simultaneously colloquial urban-Jewish, sounds throughout these rich tales, which manage to be remarkably varied despite their emphasis on Malamud's trademark themes of victimization and loneliness. The exceptions are several sardonically amusing portrayals of the scapegrace flawed artist Arthur Fidelman, and the late, complex "fictive biographies" of such subjects as Virginia Woolf and Alma Mahler ("In Kew Gardens" and "Alma Redeemed," respectively) that seem to have developed out of his 1979 novel, Dublin's Lives. But the essential Malamud is found in his moving studies of the claims of charity and the consequences of acknowledging or denying one's kinship with others ("Idiots First," "Take Pity"), and more specifically of Jews unable to escape their heritage and its responsibilities ("Man in the Drawer," "The Last Mohican"). On another level, the imperatives of belonging are ingeniously rendered in such celebrated fantasies as "Angel Levine," "The Jewbird," and "The Silver Crown," an overlooked story that is one of Malamud's greatest. Even readers who think they know his work well may be surprised at how powerfully some of the lesser known stories continue to resonate ("The Bill" and the moving "Rembrandt's Hat" are exemplary). A landmark book that belongs on the same shelf with the collected stories of John Cheerer and Issac Bashevis Singer. "Believe me, there are Jews everywhere," intones a representative Malamud character. Believe me, we believe him.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-374-12639-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1997

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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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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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EXHALATION

Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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