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


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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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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