FORMER VIRGIN

A third collection from the ``postfeminist'' author whose previous works (Dog People, 1997, etc.) have established her as one of the quirkier voices on the scene today. As an editor of the Chick-Lit anthologies, Mazza has demonstrated great sensitivity to women's voices and women's cares, and these elements are certainly not overlooked here. Some of the pieces, like ``The Cram-It-In Method'' (which portrays a rather unworldly girl's preparations for her wedding to an even callower boy), examine feminine obsessions with men and families in tones that would be perfectly at home in Seventeen. Others, like ``The Career,'' which describes in a frank, harsh tone a naive teenager's extended affair with a brutish married man, will probably end up in one of Andrea Dworkin's footnotes somewhere along the line. ``The Something Bad'' follows a ``coupla-white-chicks-talking'' mode, in which three friends spend an afternoon ranting at each other about how their husbands have all turned out to be child molesters, and when will their boyfriends ever leave their wives, anyhow? Some of the works read more like fragments than stories: ``Dog & Girlfriend'' is the interior monologue of a girl dosing herself for a yeast infection she believes that she caught by sleeping with her best friend's father, while ``Laying Off the Secretary'' reads like the thought balloons for a comic strip on sexual harassment. The more ambitious stories work better: ``Adrenalin'' is an extraordinarily subtle portrait of how adultery saves the marriage of an unhappy young couple, and ``Copterport on Cowell's Mountain'' manages to make something out of the hopelessly overdone patient- and-shrink-scenario. A very mixed bag, but with some nice bits buried down deep. Mazza's talent can be striking when she chooses to exercise it.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 1-57366-033-7

Page Count: 145

Publisher: FC2/Northwestern Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1997

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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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