Next book


Fourteen variously weird tales from the producing half of the Coen Brothers movie team. Though only one of the stories is titled “It Is an Ancient Mariner,” most seem to be told by somebody more determined to buttonhole his audience than to explain exactly what he has in mind. One of Coen’s two favorite subjects, as you’d expect from films like Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, and Fargo, is seriously skewed annals of crime. “Cosa Minapolidan” chronicles the efforts of a clueless crime boss to establish his reputation after he migrates to the Twin Cities. “Destiny” follows the world’s worst boxer through his equally unsuccessful stint as a bedroom dick. “A Fever in the Blood” asks how another private eye copes after getting his ear bitten off. The title story tosses a California weights-and-measures man into a Japanese blackmail plot. Coen’s crime stories work up to climactic tableaux rather than resolutions, and therefore aren’t all that different from his other stories, which focus on the psychopathology of everyday life. He follows a father on a hellishly ordinary camping trip with his two sons in “The Boys,” wonders what might happen to Hebrew school bullies in “The Old Country” and “I Killed Phil Shapiro,” and recounts selected events leading up to a long-suffering woman’s murder of her husband in “It Is an Ancient Mariner.” The deadpan, playfully grave tone throughout both kinds of stories is amusingly consistent, whether Coen is evoking Samuel Beckett or Philip Marlowe with a propeller atop his fedora. Surprisingly, three dialogues——Johnnie Ga-Botz,” “The Old Boys,” and the promisingly titled “Hecter Berlioz, Private Investigator”—are both less funny and less substantial. Maybe they need John Goodman and Frances Macdormand to fill in the blanks. A final surprise: “Red Wing,” the one story that tries to root weird abnormalities in weird normalities, is a bit too precious to come off. Like this debut collection as a whole, though, it’s a valuable portrait of the artist as a middle-aged neophyte.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 1998

ISBN: 0-688-15914-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

Next book


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

Next book



In a word: magnificent.

Retrospect and resolution, neither fully comprehended nor ultimately satisfying: such are the territories the masterful Munro explores in her tenth collection.

Each of its eight long tales in the Canadian author’s latest gathering (after Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, 2001, etc.) bears a one-word title, and all together embrace a multiplicity of reactions to the facts of aging, changing, remembering, regretting, and confronting one’s mortality. Three pieces focus on Juliet Henderson, a student and sometime teacher of classical culture, who waits years (in “Chance”) before rediscovering romantic happiness with the middle-aged man with whom she had shared an unusual experience during a long train journey. In “Soon,” Juliet and her baby daughter Penelope visit Juliet’s aging parents, and she learns how her unconventional life has impacted on theirs. Then, in “Silence,” a much older Juliet comes sorrowfully to terms with the emptiness in her that had forever alienated Penelope, “now living the life of a prosperous, practical matron” in a world far from her mother’s. Generational and familial incompatibility also figure crucially in “Passion,” the story (somewhat initially reminiscent of Forster’s Howards End) of a rural girl’s transformative relationship with her boyfriend’s cultured, “perfect” family—and her realization that their imperfections adumbrate her own compromised future. Further complexities—and borderline believable coincidences and recognitions—make mixed successes of “Trespasses,” in which a young girl’s unease about her impulsive parents is shown to stem from a secret long kept from her, and “Tricks,” an excruciatingly sad account of a lonely girl’s happenstance relationship with the immigrant clockmaker she meets while attending a Shakespeare festival, the promise she tries and helplessly fails to keep, and the damaging misunderstanding that, she ruefully reasons, “Shakespeare should have prepared her.” Then there are the masterpieces: the title story’s wrenching portrayal of an emotionally abused young wife’s inability to leave her laconic husband; and the brilliant novella “Powers,” which spans years and lives, a truncated female friendship that might have offered sustenance and salvation, and contains acute, revelatory discriminations between how women and men experience and perceive “reality.”

In a word: magnificent.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2004

ISBN: 1-4000-4281-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2004

Close Quickview