Startling, far-reaching tales of women who haunt and are haunted.

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DEAD GIRLS AND OTHER STORIES

A chorus of dead and living girls and women in nine stories.

Geminder’s cohesive debut features diverse settings, but whether in India, Cambodia, or New York, her female protagonists face similar anxieties. These are the horrors of the body, the limitations of language, and the constant presence of death. Events recur and become motifs. In “Edie,” the narrator recounts the rape of a high school girl. The strange part, she thinks, is her own inability to remember how she first heard of it. “It was as if the story had been conveyed not in the usual way, person to person, but had existed quietly inside me and was only now revealed.” In “Coming To,” the staff of a Cambodian newspaper begins using the term “rape-murder” in their articles despite questions from the copy chief. “Almost every day, there’s at least one rape in the paper....Sometimes they are rape-murders.” There is an eerie convergence of female identities and experiences across time and space—mass faintings, possession by aliens and by spirits, and the horrific series of dead girls that permeates the lives of the living in the title story and throughout. We meet an old hippie man who refers to all girls by the same name—Annie—and in “Phnom Penh,” four women, narrating in a collective first person, give voice to this concept themselves: “We’d come to replace a dead girl,” they explain. “We were replacements,” they note. “We were girls.”

Startling, far-reaching tales of women who haunt and are haunted.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-945814-33-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dzanc

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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

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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

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