In prismatic translation from the Italian, these tiny tales sparkle with wit and worldly wisdom.


Most of the 21 stories in this wide-ranging collection are only a few pages long, and they're jewels of intellect and compassion.

As if taking stock of life through the lens of European history, Swiss writer Jaeggy (S.S. Proleterka, 2003, etc.) finds poetry in the thoughts of characters who steal or desecrate, fall into depression, kill without knowing why, each fate revealing a hint about the soul, something from the core of life. In the gloomy title story, a man describes his love-hate relationship with his entrancing older sister. At age 8 he tells his grandmother all he wants to do when he grows up is die and, later, recalls how his mother’s coffin looked after someone placed flowers on it: “Little sweets, little strawberries, a flowery meadow on our mother’s skull.” There’s a story about a visit to a hospital burn unit (“The Aseptic Room”), an artwork that mirrors life (“Portrait of an Unknown Woman”), and a “puritanically serene” family with a Nazi past (“The Aviary”). Two stories focus on famous writers, Joseph Brodsky (“Negde”) and Ingeborg Bachmann (“The Salt Water House”). Jaeggy’s prose is silken, especially when violence occurs. In “The Heir,” an old woman collapses in a fire that may have been set by her servant, who notes in cold, heartbreaking detail how “her hands, like the claws of a crustacean, clutched a little mound of dust.” The wealthy, death-obsessed family in “The Last of the Line” lives out a fable of decadence in decay, where lakes dream and haunting portraits portend murder. And it’s a testament to Jaeggy’s skill that her gothic fiction can stand alongside a story such as “Names,” about a visit to Auschwitz, where, “the flowers before the Wall of Death are limp. During the night they freeze.”

In prismatic translation from the Italian, these tiny tales sparkle with wit and worldly wisdom.

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8112-2598-4

Page Count: 128

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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This new Baldwin novel is told by a 19-year-old black girl named Tish in a New York City ghetto about how she fell in love with a young black man, Fonny. He got framed on a rape charge and she got pregnant before they could marry and move into their loft; but Tish and her family Finance a trip to Puerto Rico to track down the rape victim and rescue Fonny, a sculptor with slanted eyes and treasured independence. The book is anomalous for the 1970's with its Raisin in the Sun wholesomeness. It is sometimes saccharine, but it possesses a genuinely sweet and free spirit too. Along with the reflex sprinkles of hate-whitey, there are powerful showdowns between the two black families, and a Frieze of people who — unlike Fonny's father — gave up and "congregated on the garbage heaps of their lives." The style wobbles as Tish mixes street talk with lyricism and polemic and a bogus kind of Young Adult hesitancy. Baldwin slips past the conflict between fighting the garbage heap and settling into a long-gone private chianti-chisel-and-garret idyll, as do Fonny and Tish and the baby. But Baldwin makes the affirmation of the humanity of black people which is all too missing in various kinds of Superfly and sub-fly novels.

Pub Date: May 24, 1974

ISBN: 0307275930

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1974

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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