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

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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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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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