An uneven but frequently effective collection of stories about people seeking to understand themselves and their...

INFINITE ENDING

TEN STORIES

A collection of short stories and essays that lean heavily toward the postmodern.

Marcopolos (Almost Home, 2013, etc.) here offers 10 short stories, followed by two essays on the nature and history of the subgenre of postmodern literary fiction. Readers leery of postmodernism may want to read these essays first, in order to get the author’s perspective on the type of fiction he considers his stories to be. In general, readers approaching postmodern stories can expect less formal structure and more rhetorical game-playing than what they might get in the works of writers such as John Updike or John Cheever. Certainly, Marcopolos delivers on both those counts, as his stories are filled with narrative playfulness and, sometimes, conceptual strangeness. They offer a fairly wide variety of plots, although a common strand of personality investigation runs through most of them: “What drives you?” one character asks in the first story, “Tock,” and variations of that question appear in most of the following tales. As in any such collection, some entries are stronger than others. One standout is “Valhalla House,” in which Enzo, a college baseball player, is weakened by a recent elbow surgery; he can “feel the impact of losing everything,” including the loyalty of “all the people who loved him fifty pounds and a 95-mile-an-hour fastball ago.” Here, Marcopolos really captures the brutal realities of chancing everything on the possibility of a pro career. “Eroticoffica” is another strong entry, in which two young women take a break from their job writing pornographic e-books (“each cranking out many titles of hot-selling erotica each year”) in order to swap complaints and dreams; they go to an eccentric coffee shop, where their laughter inadvertently prompts another patron to go home and shoot himself. Despite the author’s essays on postmodernism, the best stories in this collection are the most traditional ones. There’s plenty here that Updike and Cheever fans will like, even if they’ve never given postmodernism a second glance.

An uneven but frequently effective collection of stories about people seeking to understand themselves and their predicaments.

Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-0983459996

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Kykeon Media

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2015

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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