This amalgamation of  “distinctly frivolous” stories lacks a strong selling-point, but you get the feeling early and often...

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NUDE NUNS AND OTHER PECULIAR PEOPLE

A COLLECTION OF STORIES FROM THE HEARTLAND

Wells, a businessman from Middle America, presents his debut collection of short stories.

A financial advisor by day, Wells pens each of his vignettes like a cost-benefit analysis, leaving the now-informed reader to choose: buy in or not. In “Basic Training,” a gawky Wells leaves the halls of the Ivy League for the fields of Louisiana. Knowing he is never to face the trenches of Vietnam, Wells simply struggles to survive an attack from a backwoods ginger giant named “Red” and the scapegoating by an unfriendly drill sergeant. While Wells never loses the candor that earned him these consequences, he develops an apology reflex that absolves him of blame in the stories that follow. Moments like in “Coast to Coast,” however—where his youthful irreverence triumphs—make for deadpan gold: a father-son rescue mission of a baby lamb is celebrated with a lamb dinner. Similarly, Wells abandons his cautious, cumbersome reference to a transgender character as “he/she” for a more reckless, though cringe-worthy, character sketch: “striking from a distance…with a voice like Robert Mitchum’s in a beef commercial.” The reader can’t help but cheer on such humorous interludes once arriving at narratives like “Bowling Green,” which has all the levity of a legal brief. Having ignored the subtextual history of slavery and segregation in this piece, Wells adds the section “Race”—a sort of post-script apology for having painted a Pleasantville with Marges and Earls, Minnies and Charlies and no mention of this substantive theme. Yet again, Wells is forgiven of his grave missteps in stories like “Three Funerals” where the punch-line is a whimsical, albeit purposeless, crafting of a country song. But Wells never has the chance to beg forgiveness for the blunder in his final and namesake story, “Nude Nuns”; in the span of five pages, Wells manages to speak past the foot in his mouth, flagging lesbians by their footwear and defining a hot tub as a “conversation pit with tits.”

This amalgamation of  “distinctly frivolous” stories lacks a strong selling-point, but you get the feeling early and often that Wells doesn’t seem to much care whether he makes the sale so long as he gets to make the pitch.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-1450794343

Page Count: 258

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2012

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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