Resonant though imperfect, Cintrón's stories insist we pay attention to the nuance and texture of life.



In this debut collection of interlocking short stories that span decades, Detroit is both the setting and a character itself.

The Detroit of these stories can be both brutal and familial: Its men and women work, drink, and live hard. Big auto is ubiquitous—as are the constant undercurrents of class and racial tension—and sex is a commodity as often as it’s not. Men are often violent toward women, even if they love them. Divided into two sections, Eastside and Westside, which comprise nine stories each, the book begins in the 1960s and extends at least into the '80s—time and place are occasionally difficult to pinpoint. Certain vernacular and dialogue skew contemporary, as in the first story, "The Beard," which takes place in the 1960s and includes the line, “She look at me all bug-eyed and shit.” The scope of the book can contribute to a sense of confusion. While a large cast of characters and their complicated web of relationships are vital to the tone and structure of the stories, the sheer number of characters and the ways they relate to one another are a lot to keep track of, particularly when the same character is called both George and Scooter. Cintrón has a flair for description and can conjure a mood in a single phrase like “The church is full of Grandma,” or “She sat back, enjoying the smell of leather upholstery and the occasional breeze from the river." While evocative, Cintrón’s descriptions often take the form of dense paragraphs, which don’t allow her characters much room to breathe or talk. Cintrón is the author of three poetry collections, which shows late in the book when she inserts descriptive stanzas that move and lilt in a way their prose counterparts do not: “lunchtime on the waterfront / just me and george watching / animated sisters filing out of office buildings / coalescing around food vendors / trucks and three-wheeled wagons / the smell of hot dogs and tamales.”

Resonant though imperfect, Cintrón's stories insist we pay attention to the nuance and texture of life.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8143-4688-4

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Wayne State Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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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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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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