Beautifully written and charged with vitality, this collection plucks people from an obscure place and tells their stories.

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DODGER BLUE WILL FILL YOUR SOUL

In his debut short story collection, Fierro offers windows into the often obscured world of East Los Angeles.

The characters in these stories live in a workaday area of LA, far from the glitz and glamour of Beverly Hills or Hollywood. East LA is predominantly Hispanic, and the author cuts through any perceived stereotypes to convey the area's diversity. The people here are mothers and fathers of kids growing up in the city or young people finding ways to carve out their own identities while connecting with their familial and cultural heritage. In the title story, baseball serves as a conduit between generations, highlighting the differences and similarities in one family as they watch a game at home. In “Minefield,” two young men work together with their grandmother to bury a statue in remembrance of the uncle they lost and explore the past lives of their family members. Many of the themes in the stories are universal, and the writing is weighted with a sense of urgency and emotion that comes through clearly. But the author's style is, at times, voyeuristic; the reader is dropped into circumstances that take time to fully unfold and are whisked out just as abruptly. Some stories become uncomfortable and alienating, such as "Beto Ordonez," in which a young boy responds to the Challenger explosion by acting out repeatedly in class. Although the author hints at underlying issues at home and a history of such behavior, these are overwhelmed by a sense of being held at arm's length.

Beautifully written and charged with vitality, this collection plucks people from an obscure place and tells their stories.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-816-53275-9

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Univ. of Arizona

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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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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