THE DARK TOWER AND OTHER STORIES

No scholar ever wore his learning more modestly than C. S. Lewis; no essayist ever got to the point more matter-of-factly; no story-teller ever conveyed greater happiness in his own "making," as he might have called it. And probably no writer would have been more ruthless in pruning various incomplete odds and ends of his literary estate, if he had been able to get round to it. One is bound to have mixed feelings about the attempt of Walter Hooper (Lewis' former secretary and a trustee of the estate) to salvage the uncollected and unfinished fiction. The present volume includes two stories which were never published in Lewis' lifetime, two which appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and two fragments of longer narratives. The first of these, The Dark Tower, is by far the most impressive thing in the collection, apparently the beginnings of an unfinished sequel to Out of the Silent Planet. The basic premise—a parallel world with a two-dimensional time going not only backwards and forwards but "eckwards" and "andwards"—is delightful, and the groundwork of the plot is laid out with such confidence that one wonders how Lewis could have borne not to finish it. At the other end of the gamut, a fragmentary retelling of Helen and Menelaus' return from Troy is oddly bereft of energy. "Forms of Things Unknown," cast in the form of a rather trivial moonexploration story, works a splendid and wholly unexpected change upon a more frightening myth; "The Man Born Blind" plays clumsily but movingly (and chillhillingly) with the idea of newly acquired sight. The two M.F.S.F. stories remind us of a less welcome Lewis: the patronizing and avuncular pigeonholer of other people's departures from the path of true belief. This Lewis is intermittently visible through the whole collection—sneering at "modern" young women who discuss sex frankly, trivializing a grown man's homosexual impulse into a schoolgirl crush, smugly imagining the "shoddiness" of an inoffensive girl's mental universe. Time has dealt both kindly and unkindly with Lewis. One is keenly aware that the English language has not changed for the better in the thirteen years since his death. It is a pleasure to listen to this voice again, but not always to hear what it is saying.

Pub Date: April 18, 1977

ISBN: 0156027704

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1977

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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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HOW THE GARCIA GIRLS LOST THEIR ACCENTS

Told through the points of view of the four Garcia sisters- Carla, Sandi, Yolanda and Sofia-this perceptive first novel by poet Alvarez tells of a wealthy family exiled from the Dominican Republic after a failed coup, and how the daughters come of age, weathering the cultural and class transitions from privileged Dominicans to New York Hispanic immigrants. Brought up under strict social mores, the move to the States provides the girls a welcome escape from the pampered, overbearingly protective society in which they were raised, although subjecting them to other types of discrimination. Each rises to the challenge in her own way, as do their parents, Mami (Laura) and Papi (Carlos). The novel unfolds back through time, a complete picture accruing gradually as a series of stories recounts various incidents, beginning with ``Antojos'' (roughly translated ``cravings''), about Yolanda's return to the island after an absence of five years. Against the advice of her relatives, who fear for the safety of a young woman traveling the countryside alone, Yolanda heads out in a borrowed car in pursuit of some guavas and returns with a renewed understanding of stringent class differences. ``The Kiss,'' one of Sofia's stories, tells how she, married against her father's wishes, tries to keep family ties open by visiting yearly on her father's birthday with her young son. And in ``Trespass,'' Carla finds herself the victim of ignorance and prejudice a year after the Garcias have arrived in America, culminating with a pervert trying to lure her into his car. In perhaps one of the most deft and magical stories, ``Still Lives,'' young Sandi has an extraordinary first art lesson and becomes the inspiration for a statue of the Virgin: ``Dona Charito took the lot of us native children in hand Saturday mornings nine to twelve to put Art into us like Jesus into the heathen.'' The tradition and safety of the Old World are just part of the tradeoff that comes with the freedom and choice in the New. Alvarez manages to bring to attention many of the issues-serious and light-that immigrant families face, portraying them with sensitivity and, at times, an enjoyable, mischievous sense.

Pub Date: May 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-945575-57-2

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1991

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