Stein’s dilemma is emblematic of Keret’s method: The stories read like fragments of reality—personal, political and even...




Forty-six stories in a range of tones and styles, from slapstick to surrealism.

The stories vary in length between one and eight pages, and Keret (stories: The Nimrod Flipout, 2006, etc.) is able to squeeze a lot between the covers. Many of his characters are not overburdened by introspective tendencies. There’s Nahum, for example, whose childhood “seemed like a cavity in somebody else’s tooth—unhealthy, but no big deal, at least not to him,” and Mindy, who in answer to her husband’s query (why does she buy “crap” like superglue?) snaps back, “ ‘the same reason I married you…to kill time.’ ” Some stories, like “Hat Trick,” focus on the outré, in this case a magician whose climactic trick is the banal one of pulling a rabbit out of a hat. One day, in front of a bored and diminished audience at a child’s birthday party, he succeeds only in pulling out the rabbit’s bloody head, much to the consternation of the magician but to the delight and enthusiasm of the partygoers. He finds that with this new trick he’s much more in demand. “The Summer of ’76” looks at the serene and happy reality of a child oblivious to most of the craziness surrounding him. “Knockoff Venus” has a nameless narrator who confesses to his therapist that he “needed something I could believe in. A great love that would never go away.” His therapist recommends he get a dog. In “Not Human Beings,” a soldier named Stein tries to put together in some coherent way his impressions of what’s happening in Gaza: “He tried to put all the images together into a single, coherent reality, but he couldn’t.”

Stein’s dilemma is emblematic of Keret’s method: The stories read like fragments of reality—personal, political and even metaphysical. It’s hard to know how to piece them together.

Pub Date: April 24, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-374-53105-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2008

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

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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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