Some people call Cooper a maverick moralist and an innovative stylist. Well, some people will swallow almost anything.

More sexually based offenses from the master, so to speak, of gay sadomasochistic overkill (The Weaklings, 2008, etc.).

In this cojone-squeezing collection of 18 mostly fragmentary stories, Cooper considers beautiful young male flesh, as exploited by admirers bent on discovering how it responds to torture, murder and mutilation (though not necessarily in that order). In “Jerk,” a creepy performance artist dissects his own “experiences as a drug-addicted, psychotic teen murderer”; elsewhere, a boy who has dispatched his parents and younger brother analyzes his actions and thoughts in conversation with the sympathetic sadist who’s about to kill him (“The Hostage Drama”); a male groupie praises the democratic carnal energies of rock and punk celebrities (“One Night in 1979…”); and in “The Ash Gray Proclam-ation,” Cooper’s feral adolescent death-desirers connect gay rape and murder with al-Qaeda and bin Laden, citing “the jihad that homoeroticism has unleashed on the cute.” One of the more intriguing pieces is “Oliver Twink,” which comes in the form of an impassioned dialogue between a teen junkie (Chris) and his compassionate “uncle” (iTodd). There’s genuine scary power in the story’s skillfully paced revelation of a dangerous unequal relationship. But, as usual, Cooper takes it way, way over the top. When his stories invite your empathy, he works like a Trojan (a painfully ribbed one, surely) to celebrate his soulless boy-toys’ apocalyptic gamesmanship.

Some people call Cooper a maverick moralist and an innovative stylist. Well, some people will swallow almost anything.

Pub Date: June 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-171544-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009



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



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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