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A searing array of stories envisioned through crystal-clear eyes.

Eslami’s (Bone Worship, 2010) incisive story collection explores the shadowed corners of working-class lives.

In each of these 11 tales, unsung men and women grapple with the detritus of the everyday; chance encounters and split decisions are catalysts for the years of discontent that follow. In the opening story “Jocko Hollow,” two Montana boys’ lives are upended the summer they find a stranger occupying their favorite fishing spot. An older sister meditates on her brother’s zealous but seemingly deluded decision to join the Army in “Victory Forge.” Themes range from innocence to adulthood and identity. Role reversal among younger and older generations abounds: Parents behave selfishly (and often cowardly), and their children adopt adult roles before their time. Deacon, “a whip-smart boy of the prairie” born in a trailer to drunken simpletons, contrives a sense of purpose by taking a housecleaning job to pay for college in “Sour Milk”; the eponymous hero of “Adwok, Pantokrator” deals with the fallout of his mother’s alleged infidelities while facing the stark realities of immigration. In “Everything Gets Mixed Together at the Pueblo,” a tour guide, exhausted by the facade she maintains for endless herds of tourists, begins to fall out of character. The narrator wryly notes that Kathy and Jennifer, the guides, “do not have names of birds, or seasons, or words separated by hyphens, and this is mildly disappointing to everybody.” It’s one of many moments in the collection that articulate a profound feeling of alienation—both among other cultures and within our own. The edges are neatly filled in by several dreamlike stories, including the surreal “Hibernators,” wherein a young couple digs themselves a hole “where their love would bloom like the birth of a mole rat.” These worlds, if bleak, are never less than perfectly honest; social stratification and race dissolve as the rich and poor, from every corner of the world, struggle to find anything worth holding on to. If they do, it often owes to a programmed instinct for survival—composed all the while in stark, unflinching prose.

A searing array of stories envisioned through crystal-clear eyes. 

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0814251881

Page Count: 122

Publisher: Ohio State Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2014

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The range and virtuosity of these stories make this Mosley’s most adventurous and, maybe, best book.

A grandmaster of the hard-boiled crime genre shifts gears to spin bittersweet and, at times, bizarre tales about bruised, sensitive souls in love and trouble.

In one of the 17 stories that make up this collection, a supporting character says: “People are so afraid of dying that they don’t even live the little bit of life they have.” She casually drops this gnomic observation as a way of breaking down a lead character’s resistance to smoking a cigarette. But her aphorism could apply to almost all the eponymous awkward Black men examined with dry wit and deep empathy by the versatile and prolific Mosley, who takes one of his occasional departures from detective fiction to illuminate the many ways Black men confound society’s expectations and even perplex themselves. There is, for instance, Rufus Coombs, the mailroom messenger in “Pet Fly,” who connects more easily with household pests than he does with the women who work in his building. Or Albert Roundhouse, of “Almost Alyce,” who loses the love of his life and falls into a welter of alcohol, vagrancy, and, ultimately, enlightenment. Perhaps most alienated of all is Michael Trey in “Between Storms,” who locks himself in his New York City apartment after being traumatized by a major storm and finds himself taken by the outside world as a prophet—not of doom, but, maybe, peace? Not all these awkward types are hapless or benign: The short, shy surgeon in “Cut, Cut, Cut” turns out to be something like a mad scientist out of H.G. Wells while “Showdown on the Hudson” is a saga about an authentic Black cowboy from Texas who’s not exactly a perfect fit for New York City but is soon compelled to do the right thing, Western-style. The tough-minded and tenderly observant Mosley style remains constant throughout these stories even as they display varied approaches from the gothic to the surreal.

The range and virtuosity of these stories make this Mosley’s most adventurous and, maybe, best book.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4956-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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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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