Essential for students of modern literature, offering insight into the mind and methods of one of the greatest practitioners...

THE SHORT STORIES OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY

A gathering of some of Papa’s best—and not so best—short fiction, the genre for which he first became known and is perhaps most honored today.

Ernest Hemingway, as his grandson and editor Seán observes in his excellent introductory essay, was a newspaper reporter before all else, and he learned much from his Kansas City newspaper’s style guide, including the dicta to use short, active sentences and ledes and to “be sparing of extravagant adjectives.” Extraneous adjectives. Extra adjectives, even. In this edition, some of Hemingway’s stories are presented in a draft format, always with cuts and sometimes with additions, that illustrates the application of these rules: “One hot evening in Milan they carried him up onto the roof and I could look out over all the other roofs the flat top of the town,” the phrase “all the other roofs” and the word “flat” thereupon being deleted to yield the desired flatness. In other instances, as with a draft of “Indian Camp,” not just deletions, but a few false starts are highlighted, as is true of the crystalline, now-perfect story “Soldier’s Home,” in which Hemingway removed an obvious description: “then tears came out, then her eyes were red and she was crying” gives way to the simpler “she started crying.” Hemingway’s simple style has been the object of parody and imitation for nine decades, but it is plain from these pages how hard he worked at it, as stories such as the much-revised “A Canary for One” reveal; one wishes for an edition such as Harcourt made of Eliot’s Waste Land showing every single note and draft of stories such as “Big Two-Hearted River” and “A Way You’ll Never Be,” the latter presented here without emendation, as is “The Killers” and a few other of Hemingway’s best-known tales.

Essential for students of modern literature, offering insight into the mind and methods of one of the greatest practitioners of the story form.

Pub Date: July 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4767-8762-6

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Whitehead continues the African-American artists' inquiry into race mythology and history with rousing audacity and...

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THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

What if the metaphorical Underground Railroad had been an actual…underground railroad, complete with steam locomotive pulling a “dilapidated box car” along a subterranean nexus of steel tracks?

For roughly its first 60 pages, this novel behaves like a prelude to a slave narrative which is, at once, more jolting and sepulchral than the classic firsthand accounts of William Wells Brown and Solomon Northup. Its protagonist, Cora, is among several African-American men and women enslaved on a Georgia plantation and facing a spectrum of savage indignities to their bodies and souls. A way out materializes in the form of an educated slave named Caesar, who tells her about an underground railroad that can deliver her and others northward to freedom. So far, so familiar. But Whitehead, whose eclectic body of work encompasses novels (Zone One, 2011, etc.) playing fast and loose with “real life,” both past and present, fires his most daring change-up yet by giving the underground railroad physical form. This train conveys Cora, Caesar, and other escapees first to a South Carolina also historically unrecognizable with its skyscrapers and its seemingly, if microscopically, more liberal attitude toward black people. Compared with Georgia, though, the place seems so much easier that Cora and Caesar are tempted to remain, until more sinister plans for the ex-slaves’ destiny reveal themselves. So it’s back on the train and on to several more stops: in North Carolina, where they’ve not only abolished slavery, but are intent on abolishing black people, too; through a barren, more forbidding Tennessee; on to a (seemingly) more hospitable Indiana, and restlessly onward. With each stop, a slave catcher named Ridgeway, dispensing long-winded rationales for his wicked calling, doggedly pursues Cora and her diminishing company of refugees. And with every change of venue, Cora discovers anew that “freedom was a thing that shifted as you looked at it, the way a forest is dense with trees up close but from outside, the empty meadow, you see its true limits.” Imagine a runaway slave novel written with Joseph Heller’s deadpan voice leasing both Frederick Douglass’ grim realities and H.P. Lovecraft’s rococo fantasies…and that’s when you begin to understand how startlingly original this book is.

Whitehead continues the African-American artists' inquiry into race mythology and history with rousing audacity and razor-sharp ingenuity; he is now assuredly a writer of the first rank.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-53703-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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