A diverse collections of stories about dealing with the past.

No Turning Back: Stories

The past is a lingering, powerful specter for the characters in Dan Burns' (Recalled to Life, 2013, etc.) motley collection of short stories.

A former mayor tries to outrun a scandal [4], a spy reunites with a childhood friend [82], and an abuse victim struggles to outrun bad memories and the consequences of his own transgressions [100]: these are the kinds of characters who permeate No Turning Back, where the present is shaped by the past and the past is all but inescapable. The stories range from action film-like scenes between a former president and an Iranian leader [111] to a memorable fantasy in which author Ray Bradbury arrives for a surprise birthday dinner [183]. Burns' characters are haunted—by death and loss [37], past scandals [4], and often by their own mistakes [101]. The characters' pasts are well-developed for such short stories, but they have an unfortunate tendency to get weighed down in explaining their own backstories instead of depicting the action of the present. The result is that readers are sometimes left wading through tedious descriptions of the past, but there's no doubt that these long interpolations manage to emphasize the book's message: our pasts shape our present states in complex ways, and unless we can let go, they shape our futures, too. Each story is followed by a brief essay explaining the author's writing process and his thoughts about the story. The author also includes an eight-page introduction, meaning that these stories arrive wrapped in a hefty padding of context and explanation. More intellectual readers will enjoy this, while others may prefer to skip ahead to the stories, which have a variety of intriguing plots that will entice readers' interest even when the pace of the stories occasionally lags.

A diverse collections of stories about dealing with the past.

Pub Date: April 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-0991169405

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Chicago Arts Press

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2014

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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