A debut collection of eight stories, most portraying the extremes of loneliness that inhabit the souls of modern Americans in out-of-the-way places. “Sy Johnson trudged onto the frozen lake toting the dismembered body of his lover on a red plastic sled.” With opening lines like this, you have to be prepared for anything, and the world that Mueller offers is far from sedate. In fact, it’s downright dangerous—not only for victims like Sy Johnson’s gay lover in “Ice Breaking” (who killed himself by kneeling in front of an oncoming train) but for the survivors who have to cope with the mess (like Sy Johnson, who also chooses suicide rather than carry on alone). The lost-love scenario is continued in “Zero,” the story of a gay businessman bankrupted by his boyfriend’s AIDS bills. In “Torturing Creatures at Night,” an obese teenager takes out his frustrations on the entire neighborhood by wandering through the backyards of his suburban town with a remote control, changing television channels through people’s windows. “Birds” is the story of Amanda, an aspiring poet who works as a stripper to pay for her medical expenses. A lesbian who lives with her girlfriend Larissa and the latter’s two sons, Amanda is perfectly happy stripping for men until her encounter with a deranged customer ends in tragedy. “The Night My Brother Worked the Heater” describes the unhappy relationship between Agnes Agnug, a young Aleut, and Larry Olseth, a college boy who takes a summer job in the salmon cannery overseen by Agnes’s brother. And the title story is a reminiscence of small-town madness—replete with animal pornography, murder, unhappy marriages, and sexual awakenings—recalled by the son of a renowned surgeon. Nicely drawn albeit perhaps depressing portraits of the freaks, malcontents, and lumpen weirdos who lurk on the margins of respectable society.

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-87951-925-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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The thirty-one stories of the late Flannery O'Connor, collected for the first time. In addition to the nineteen stories gathered in her lifetime in Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965) and A Good Man is Hard to Find (1955) there are twelve previously published here and there. Flannery O'Connor's last story, "The Geranium," is a rewritten version of the first which appears here, submitted in 1947 for her master's thesis at the State University of Iowa.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1971

ISBN: 0374515360

Page Count: 555

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1971

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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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