Now that Payne has hooked up with Hollywood’s Farrelly brothers (slated to produce the film version of his Frisco Pigeon...

Bloody chunks butchered from Payne’s Youth in Revolt by an unfeeling and venal Doubleday editor.

Doubleday’s abridged Youth in Revolt (1995) was a massive chop job on Payne’s self-published 1993 version (3,000 hardbacks, now fetching a neat rare-book price), which in itself was into a small-print, 500-page, one-volume condensation of three Nick Twisp novels totaling 1,000 pages. A fourth volume, Revolting Youth: The Further Journals of Nick Twisp, was also self-published last year. Doubleday apparently was unwilling to render plastic surgery once more and passed on this unsure moneymaker. All this must be held in mind when giving thought to buying Cut to the Twisp, which tells no story but merely supplies the trimmed-out passages to fans groaning for Nick’s lost passages but finding the original edition unavailable. This is not a book to buy without already having the Doubleday version; otherwise you will simply be stirring “mystery animal parts” (as the mighty Twisp says in another context) on your plate. Still, should you care to read a book composed of dropped paragraphs and brief passages that in themselves have only cryptic suggestions as to their narrative muscle or marrow, be Nick’s guest for this revolutionary mode of storytelling. Also on hand is a clutch of snippets that collect Payne’s humor pieces of the past two decades, ripped from sources too frail to identify. (Perhaps his bottom desk drawer?) These include a disquisition on apt modes of suicide for poets: hemp rope, leather belt, beheading (cf. Mishima), and so on. Others, such as “The Visitation” and “Let Us All Write a Sophisticated Love Scene,” can be quite amusing.

Now that Payne has hooked up with Hollywood’s Farrelly brothers (slated to produce the film version of his Frisco Pigeon Mambo, 2000), maybe he can finally get some respect for Twisp as well.

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2001

ISBN: 1-882647-03-3

Page Count: 162

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2001




A newcomer to watch: fresh, funny, and tough.

Seven stories, including a couple of prizewinners, from an exuberantly talented young Thai-American writer.

In the poignant title story, a young man accompanies his mother to Kok Lukmak, the last in the chain of Andaman Islands—where the two can behave like “farangs,” or foreigners, for once. It’s his last summer before college, her last before losing her eyesight. As he adjusts to his unsentimental mother’s acceptance of her fate, they make tentative steps toward the future. “Farangs,” included in Best New American Voices 2005 (p. 711), is about a flirtation between a Thai teenager who keeps a pet pig named Clint Eastwood and an American girl who wanders around in a bikini. His mother, who runs a motel after having been deserted by the boy’s American father, warns him about “bonking” one of the guests. “Draft Day” concerns a relieved but guilty young man whose father has bribed him out of the draft, and in “Don’t Let Me Die in This Place,” a bitter grandfather has moved from the States to Bangkok to live with his son, his Thai daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren. The grandfather’s grudging adjustment to the move and to his loss of autonomy (from a stroke) is accelerated by a visit to a carnival, where he urges the whole family into a game of bumper cars. The longest story, “Cockfighter,” is an astonishing coming-of-ager about feisty Ladda, 15, who watches as her father, once the best cockfighter in town, loses his status, money, and dignity to Little Jui, 16, a meth addict whose father is the local crime boss. Even Ladda is in danger, as Little Jui’s bodyguards try to abduct her. Her mother tells Ladda a family secret about her father’s failure of courage in fighting Big Jui to save his own sister’s honor. By the time Little Jui has had her father beaten and his ear cut off, Ladda has begun to realize how she must fend for herself.

A newcomer to watch: fresh, funny, and tough.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-8021-1788-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2004


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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