An impressive compendium of an important career—Mazza’s work shines.

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CHARLATAN

A chronological compilation of Mazza’s (Something Wrong With Her, 2013, etc.) substantial body of short fiction, spanning the years 1979 to 2013.

Adulterers, introverts, photographers, and people who fish; dog lovers, mediocre musicians, mediocre parents, people on the fringes or moving toward the fringes; people who are pretty sure the fringes are all there is—it's as hard to qualify a typical Mazza character as it is to qualify a typical Mazza story except to say that they're not typical. Using forms that disrupt or interrupt (the he said, she said columns of text in “Is It Sexual Harassment Yet?”; the inset blocks of type running through “Our Time Is Up”), Mazza’s stories explore the interstices between desire and satiation; they roil with queasy fever-dream intensity; they intuit the power of sex, of gender, of domination but neither condemn nor condone its abuses. In this insightfully edited collection, Mazza’s well-earned reputation for guileless depictions of sexuality and for characters who are complicated by their obsessive introversion is on display, as is her equally well-earned reputation for critical insight into the nonbinaries, absences, and mobile social dynamics of post-feminist thought. However, far from being a paean to the author’s role as a scholar, critic, or polarizing auteur within what can loosely be defined as experimental fiction, Mazza’s newest work stands first and foremost as a supremely accomplished body of individual artistry. Again and again, what this collection showcases is Mazza’s rarest of talents: the ability to leave judgment out of exploration, to create characters whose desires may enact violence (both emotional and physical) but whose existence is not an examination of how society “should” react to that violence. Rather, the only societies in these stories are the ones the characters make for themselves. Mazza stays out of it. The reader’s preconceptions should as well.

An impressive compendium of an important career—Mazza’s work shines.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1945883-06-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Curbside Splendor

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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