Sharply realized fiction located in a vibrant community.

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FIGHT LIKE A MAN AND OTHER STORIES WE TELL OUR CHILDREN

A novella and seven stories that shine a light—sometimes harsh and glaring—on love and family relationships in the Hispanic community of El Paso.

The title gives its name to the novella and introduces us to the kinds of complexity that will shape all the pieces in the collection. Moníca Montoya, the narrator, finds herself pregnant, but not with her husband Sal’s child. The father, ironically, is a man named Regie, whose son has been bullying Moníca and Sal’s son, Gabe. Moníca goes to Ana Jurado, an herb specialist whose tea is supposed to create a “natural” abortion, but she remains skeptical that the brew will work. And if this isn’t enough on her plate, she’s also dealing with what to do with the ashes of her father, Vicente, a seductive wastrel who somehow balanced having two families, one in Mexico and one in El Paso. Moníca uses her half sister, Bernie Gomez, as a confidante during these personal trials, which include Moníca’s continued sexual involvement with Regie as well as with a younger man. And then Sal is suspended from work for sexual harassment—or for what he terms “flirting.” Although all the plot elements border on soap opera—or perhaps telenovela—Granados has an ear for crisp dialogue and particularly for engaging opening sentences (“There is no way to look sexy carrying a fifty-quart pot of tamales” or “Every time Jim Burkett caressed Anita Guerra’s arm she had to suppress her desire to flinch”). And while the stories can be dark, the characters remain fundamentally defiant and hopeful despite distressing odds.

Sharply realized fiction located in a vibrant community.

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8263-5792-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Univ. of New Mexico

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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