Dean has a fine appreciation for the way chance can save or doom careers and marriages. More, please.

READ REVIEW

CONFESSIONS OF A FALLING WOMAN

AND OTHER STORIES

An attractive wry humor ripples through this collection of ten stories, which follows Dean’s debut novel (The Madonnas of Leningrad, 2006).

The humor is evident in the opening story, “What the Left Hand Is Saying,” a cute riff on All About Eve. Tim, a seemingly innocent young charmer, makes friends with his neighbors in his New York building, then skewers them mercilessly at a comedy club and lands a slot on a cable channel. That’s show business. Performers also appear in “Romance Manual,” a decidedly unromantic account of a one-night stand on the road in Florida, and in “Dan in the Gray Flannel Rat Suit,” the longest piece by far, a bittersweet valentine to the acting profession (Dean is a former actor). In the story, Dan spends more time tending bar than acting, but he eventually gets a couple of breaks. Ironically, he sails through his audition for a challenging role in a hot off-Broadway play, but he messes up a dumb commercial. There’s high drama, too, in “The Queen Mother,” about a crisis intervention. A large Southern family is trying to steer its alcoholic matriarch into a rehab clinic; again, the humor is dark. There’s nothing humorous, however, about the midlife crisis of a successful Seattle lawyer in “The Afterlife of Lyle Stone”; the story suggests, chillingly, that the cure may be worse than the disease. That satisfying payoff is missing from “The Best Man,” in which a recovering alcoholic yearns fleetingly to stray from his happy marriage, and from “The Bodhisattva,” about a woman’s unrequited love for her former shrink. But everything comes together in the beautifully calibrated “Another Little Piece of My Heart.” For middle-aged Elaine, a chance encounter with her ex yields an unexpected journey into self-knowledge and maybe, just maybe, offers opportunity for a fresh start.

Dean has a fine appreciation for the way chance can save or doom careers and marriages. More, please.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-082532-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperPerennial UK/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more