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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Readers seeking a tale well told will take pleasure in King’s sometimes-scary, sometimes merely gloomy pages.

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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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