A punchy array of ruminations that perfectly mirrors its title.


A short story collection that’ll get you thinking about New York grit, sex, and punk.

In these 14 new and selected stories and one novella, an expansive cast of characters navigates through aging and sexuality. Indiana’s (Last Seen Entering the Biltmore, 2010, etc.) work plunges its reader right into the middle of the action. For example, in “Romanian Conversation,” two American men discuss vices and promiscuity, but the conversation occurs without any context. Readers have no idea who these characters are, nor are they ever really told what the background is. This is the common denominator throughout the work. Indiana moves through language like he moves through his topics, though he stays sharp and pithy. A sentence, however stripped of context it may be, encapsulates a certain comforting wholeness: “The air conditioning would freeze whatever idee fixe was keeping me awake into a solid cube of thought.” Indiana uses these self-reflexive moments to play with genre as well. In “One Size Fits All,” Indiana opens with “This is fiction,” and continues a few pages later with, “Now for another fiction.” Constantly, the author is cheekily aware that he is writing, and this is precisely what keeps the reader hooked: “Whatever it is you are thinking, that’s not what’s going on. Listen: to be alive...to finish this page: if it had all been to forget you, you’d have been forgotten long ago.” But the book climaxes in its novella, Rent Boy, in which Indiana sheds an illuminating light on male escorts and the intricacies of the relationships they build with their clients.

A punchy array of ruminations that perfectly mirrors its title.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9912196-6-7

Page Count: 294

Publisher: Itna Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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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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Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.


One of America’s great novelists (Lost Memory of Skin, 2011, etc.) also writes excellent stories, as his sixth collection reminds readers.

Don’t expect atmospheric mood poems or avant-garde stylistic games in these dozen tales. Banks is a traditionalist, interested in narrative and character development; his simple, flexible prose doesn’t call attention to itself as it serves those aims. The intricate, not necessarily permanent bonds of family are a central concern. The bleak, stoic “Former Marine” depicts an aging father driven to extremes because he’s too proud to admit to his adult sons that he can no longer take care of himself. In the heartbreaking title story, the death of a beloved dog signals the final rupture in a family already rent by divorce. Fraught marriages in all their variety are unsparingly scrutinized in “Christmas Party,” Big Dog” and “The Outer Banks." But as the collection moves along, interactions with strangers begin to occupy center stage. The protagonist of “The Invisible Parrot” transcends the anxieties of his hard-pressed life through an impromptu act of generosity to a junkie. A man waiting in an airport bar is the uneasy recipient of confidences about “Searching for Veronica” from a woman whose truthfulness and motives he begins to suspect, until he flees since “the only safe response is to quarantine yourself.” Lurking menace that erupts into violence features in many Banks novels, and here, it provides jarring climaxes to two otherwise solid stories, “Blue” and “The Green Door.” Yet Banks quietly conveys compassion for even the darkest of his characters. Many of them (like their author) are older, at a point in life where options narrow and the future is uncomfortably close at hand—which is why widowed Isabel’s fearless shucking of her confining past is so exhilarating in “SnowBirds,” albeit counterbalanced by her friend Jane’s bleak acceptance of her own limited prospects.

Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-185765-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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