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

CUT TO THE TWISP

THE LOST PARTS OF YOUTH IN REVOLT AND OTHER STORIES

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2001

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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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Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.

A PERMANENT MEMBER OF THE FAMILY

One of America’s great novelists (Lost Memory of Skin, 2011, etc.) also writes excellent stories, as his sixth collection reminds readers.

Don’t expect atmospheric mood poems or avant-garde stylistic games in these dozen tales. Banks is a traditionalist, interested in narrative and character development; his simple, flexible prose doesn’t call attention to itself as it serves those aims. The intricate, not necessarily permanent bonds of family are a central concern. The bleak, stoic “Former Marine” depicts an aging father driven to extremes because he’s too proud to admit to his adult sons that he can no longer take care of himself. In the heartbreaking title story, the death of a beloved dog signals the final rupture in a family already rent by divorce. Fraught marriages in all their variety are unsparingly scrutinized in “Christmas Party,” Big Dog” and “The Outer Banks." But as the collection moves along, interactions with strangers begin to occupy center stage. The protagonist of “The Invisible Parrot” transcends the anxieties of his hard-pressed life through an impromptu act of generosity to a junkie. A man waiting in an airport bar is the uneasy recipient of confidences about “Searching for Veronica” from a woman whose truthfulness and motives he begins to suspect, until he flees since “the only safe response is to quarantine yourself.” Lurking menace that erupts into violence features in many Banks novels, and here, it provides jarring climaxes to two otherwise solid stories, “Blue” and “The Green Door.” Yet Banks quietly conveys compassion for even the darkest of his characters. Many of them (like their author) are older, at a point in life where options narrow and the future is uncomfortably close at hand—which is why widowed Isabel’s fearless shucking of her confining past is so exhilarating in “SnowBirds,” albeit counterbalanced by her friend Jane’s bleak acceptance of her own limited prospects.

Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-185765-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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