An unconventional set of tales set in delightfully eccentric realities.

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IN THE GARDEN OF MISTRESS BLOOM

A debut collection of short sci-fi fiction that explores time and space with mischievous humor.

In the title story of Curbo’s playful, intriguing compilation, Larches, a viceroy who presides over the celestial garden of Mistress Bloom, discovers a “barbed and repulsive” artichokelike globe that he recognizes as an “avatar” of the faraway planet Earth. The bloom and the planet are deeply connected, so Larches carefully protects the plant from the gardener’s blade and the Mistress’ own shears, and he hatches a plan to seed other blooms in the garden. “The 19th Frustration” finds the hapless John Y. Lipman applying for a job as a “futurologist.” As he enters his workplace—a building in which time is not linear and whose appearance keeps bewilderingly changing—he’s told that he must first witness the destruction of the city of Paris and then prevent it. In “VanLines – The Driver,” the operator of an employee van pool attempts to avoid a disaster by taking passengers back in time, and they become scavengers in a prehistoric world. “Coyote Tower” relates the adventures of two spies whose loving relationship is their only constant in an unstable world. Harold Brayner, the protagonist of “Memory of Glass,” is physically trapped by age and disability as he watches his memories play out beyond the glass wall of his kitchen. Curbo’s unpredictable narratives of parallel worlds and time slippage are strengthened by his idiosyncratic and effervescent prose; he evocatively describes Mistress Bloom’s feet, for instance, as “clops…shod in skins of black-striped winter squash,” and one of the time-traveling commuters in “Vanlines” is said to “giggle a grin.” Sometimes the quirkiness feels forced and random, as when one of the spy’s supervisors in “Coyote Tower” tosses words “like watermelon seeds” toward his listener. Also, the short story format doesn’t allow for very much development of alternate universes. However, readers who are willing to think nonlinearly may enjoy this romp through unfamiliar worlds.

An unconventional set of tales set in delightfully eccentric realities.

Pub Date: July 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4975-8655-0

Page Count: 154

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A literary tour de force of precariousness set in a blistering place, a state shaped like a gun.

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FLORIDA

In 11 electric short stories, the gifted Groff (Fates and Furies, 2015, etc.) unpacks the “dread and heat” of her home state.

In her first fiction since President Barack Obama named Fates and Furies his favorite book of the year, Groff collects her singing, stinging stories of foreboding and strangeness in the Sunshine State. Groff lives in Gainesville with a husband and two sons, and four of these tales are told from the perspectives of unmoored married mothers of young ones. The first, “Ghosts and Empties,” which appeared in the New Yorker, begins with the line, “I have somehow become a woman who yells,” a disposition the narrator tries to quell by walking at all hours as “the neighbors’ lives reveal themselves, the lit windows domestic aquariums.” Groff fans will recognize the descriptive zest instantly. The same quasi-hapless mother seems to narrate “The Midnight Zone,” in which she imperils the lives of her boys by falling off a stool and hitting her head while alone with them at a remote cabin, “where one thing [she] liked was how the screens at night pulsed with the tender bellies of lizards.” Ditto for the lonely oddballs telling “Flower Hunters” and “Yport,” the longest and last story, in which the reckless mother is often coated in alcohol. These are raw, danger-riddled, linguistically potent pieces. They unsettle their readers at every pass. In the dreamy, terrific “Dogs Go Wolf,” two little girls are abandoned on an island, their starvation lyrical: “The older sister’s body was made of air. She was a balloon, skidding over the ground”; their rescue is akin to a fairy tale. Equally mesmerizing is “Above and Below,” in which the graduate student narrator sinks away and dissipates into vivid, exacting homelessness. Even the few stories that dribble off rather than end, such as “For the God of Love, For the Love of God,” have passages of surpassing beauty. And Groff gets the humid, pervasive white racism that isn’t her point but curdles through plenty of her characters.

A literary tour de force of precariousness set in a blistering place, a state shaped like a gun.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59463-451-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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THE COMPLETE STORIES

The thirty-one stories of the late Flannery O'Connor, collected for the first time. In addition to the nineteen stories gathered in her lifetime in Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965) and A Good Man is Hard to Find (1955) there are twelve previously published here and there. Flannery O'Connor's last story, "The Geranium," is a rewritten version of the first which appears here, submitted in 1947 for her master's thesis at the State University of Iowa.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1971

ISBN: 0374515360

Page Count: 555

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1971

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