Chapman’s pieces often read strongly and will charm many, but clearly the treat would be to hear the author do his...



Debut sheaf of short stories by a 24-year-old playwright and monologist who has an off-Broadway play opening in March.

The stories are monologues much like those developed by Chekhov in “Heartbreak,” where a lonely cabbie has only his steaming nag to talk to back in the barn and discuss the day’s tragedies. In “Rest Area,” a man waits near a highway stop’s restroom for his young daughter, who went into it weeks ago and never came out. Nor does the man move his car, since the child has the keys, but he talks to passersby and hands out smudged, unrecognizable photocopies of the girl. In “Fox Trot,” an 80-year-old woman grabs a rabid fox by the neck when it sneaks, drooling, into her house. She holds on tight and talks to it for 12 hours until help comes. The tone in both pieces seems intended to pull on the heartstrings—but such a sentimental note can’t be struck repeatedly with great success. The comic “The Pool Witch,” apparently a fantasy, is about three young boys and a sexy 16-year-old pool witch they want to push down a long twisting nozzle at Water World. “The Wheels on the Bus Go” tells of a schoolgirl who lost her hearing while an infant but can remember certain sounds; she knows what she’s not hearing on the school bus when a kid fondles her and everyone but her hears her shouting in orgasm. Perhaps the most brilliantly conceived story is “Chatterbox,” in which a ventriloquist’s dummy complains to Howard, his ventriloquist, about woodworms in his teeth, the speech impediment he’s been given, and his jealousy of Howard’s wife: “I’m swallowing you up to your elbow, Howard.”

Chapman’s pieces often read strongly and will charm many, but clearly the treat would be to hear the author do his monologues and give each character his, her, or its shading and vocal edges. If this comes out as an audiobook, grab it.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7868-6737-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2001

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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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What's most worthy in this hefty, three-part volume of still more Hemingway is that it contains (in its first section) all the stories that appeared together in the 1938 (and now out of print) The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. After this, however, the pieces themselves and the grounds for their inclusion become more shaky. The second section includes stories that have been previously published but that haven't appeared in collections—including two segments (from 1934 and 1936) that later found their way into To Have and Have Not (1937) and the "story-within-a-story" that appeared in the recent The garden of Eden. Part three—frequently of more interest for Flemingway-voyeurs than for its self-evident merits—consists of previously unpublished work, including a lengthy outtake ("The Strange Country") from Islands in the Stream (1970), and two poor-to-middling Michigan stories (actually pieces, again, from an unfinished novel). Moments of interest, but luckiest are those who still have their copies of The First Forty-Nine.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1987

ISBN: 0684843323

Page Count: 666

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1987

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