THE CONSEQUENCES OF DESIRE

STORIES

In Hathaway's first collection, winner of this year's Flannery O'Connor Award, Californians discover both literally and figuratively that the ground they stand on is as insubstantial as ``the skin of a colossal pudding.'' In the title story, when a successful lawyer saw the woman he loved during hippie-commune days, ``...he was engulfed by a wave of desire—hot, impatient, adolescent—that began to corrode to a sense of unease,'' a reaction typical for the contemporary men of these pieces. Though nervously drawn to Latina servants and cranky, aspiring actresses, they usually marry appropriate professional women and then are often left to flounder emotionally. In ``Space and Light,'' an architect whose psyche unravels finds his lawyer- wife listening to him ``the way she must listen to a witness'' and replying in a ``cool and neutral tone.'' Much of the characters' uncertainty here derives from their sense of privilege, their inevitable political awareness, as well as from their mixture of attraction to, sympathy for, and resentment and suspicion of the Mexicans and Central Americans they desire, marry, drink with, or hire to keep house and dig ditches. Two stories center on young women: a convincingly unhappy adolescent in ``I Like Rap, Don't You?'' and, in the fairly silly ``The Girl Detective,'' a college student who practices the ``pure science of detection,'' following suspicious-looking people ``at a discreetly professional distance.'' Hathaway, who owns a construction company, casts an informed sympathetic eye on tile-setters, electricians, day- laborers, and contractors' wives. Few memorable stories, but an occasional real charge through Hathaway's pleasantly self-conscious intellect.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-8203-1475-7

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Univ. of Georgia

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1992

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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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Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.

A PERMANENT MEMBER OF THE FAMILY

One of America’s great novelists (Lost Memory of Skin, 2011, etc.) also writes excellent stories, as his sixth collection reminds readers.

Don’t expect atmospheric mood poems or avant-garde stylistic games in these dozen tales. Banks is a traditionalist, interested in narrative and character development; his simple, flexible prose doesn’t call attention to itself as it serves those aims. The intricate, not necessarily permanent bonds of family are a central concern. The bleak, stoic “Former Marine” depicts an aging father driven to extremes because he’s too proud to admit to his adult sons that he can no longer take care of himself. In the heartbreaking title story, the death of a beloved dog signals the final rupture in a family already rent by divorce. Fraught marriages in all their variety are unsparingly scrutinized in “Christmas Party,” Big Dog” and “The Outer Banks." But as the collection moves along, interactions with strangers begin to occupy center stage. The protagonist of “The Invisible Parrot” transcends the anxieties of his hard-pressed life through an impromptu act of generosity to a junkie. A man waiting in an airport bar is the uneasy recipient of confidences about “Searching for Veronica” from a woman whose truthfulness and motives he begins to suspect, until he flees since “the only safe response is to quarantine yourself.” Lurking menace that erupts into violence features in many Banks novels, and here, it provides jarring climaxes to two otherwise solid stories, “Blue” and “The Green Door.” Yet Banks quietly conveys compassion for even the darkest of his characters. Many of them (like their author) are older, at a point in life where options narrow and the future is uncomfortably close at hand—which is why widowed Isabel’s fearless shucking of her confining past is so exhilarating in “SnowBirds,” albeit counterbalanced by her friend Jane’s bleak acceptance of her own limited prospects.

Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-185765-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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