THE OUTLAW ALBUM

Twelve spare, haunting and brutal slices of country noir from the genre’s most gifted practitioner.

From Woodrell, author of the brilliant Winter’s Bone, which was richly adapted into the Oscar-nominated 2010 film, now comes a collection of short fiction, previously published in outlets ranging from The Missouri Review and Esquire to hard-hitting anthologies like A Hell of a Woman. And boy, does Woodrell have a way with words. The first sentence of the first story captures its essence: “Once Boshell finally killed his neighbor he couldn’t seem to quit killing him.” In a sort of redneck therapy, one of the locals takes a squirrel rifle to his Northerly neighbor, then buries him back in the woods where he can take a hatchet to the man whenever he’s feeling ornery. The Edgar Award–nominated “Uncle” is even worse. When a country girl tires of her uncle’s raping and murdering lost tourists, she takes a pick-axe to him. There is “Twin Forks,” in which a man tries to recapture his youth only to stare murder in the eyes. And “Florianne,” which delves into a man’s paranoia over his daughter’s disappearance. There are war vets in “Night Stand” and “Black Step,” reeling in a world where violence follows them home, and even a brief visit to the old outlaw Jake Roedel in “Woe to Live On.” Woe, indeed. Hard words and harsh trials from a writer who knows all too well the frozen ground he occupies.    

 

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-31-605756-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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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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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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EXHALATION

Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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