Slomski is a writer’s writer, with a gift for lyrical prose, clever plotting and significant detail that reveals depth of...


Fifteen works of short fiction ranging in length from the vignette to the (almost) novella, in style from the realistic to the surreal, and in tone from serious to lighthearted.

In the eponymous opening story, two lovers have dinner at a restaurant—though counting their shadow selves who are having an affair, there are four at the table. The story is presented as a screenplay, and the dialogue gets increasingly intricate as the lovers have their tête-à- tête. In the exquisitely tender “The Chair,” a married couple buys an armchair from an old man at a flea market, and when he delivers it, they discover through his emotional reaction how much the chair means to him. “The Allure of All This” introduces us to Anderson, who works in the men’s section of a department store. In a plot worthy of The Twilight Zone, he moves from an emotionally unsatisfying relationship with his wife, Ermalinda, and falls in love with Mia—a bit unusual because she’s a department store mannequin. In Anderson’s imaginative life, they have far deeper conversations than he has ever had with Ermalinda. “Neighbors” is the longest story in the collection and one of the most fully developed. Lana and Finn have recently moved to Louisville and are trying to be friendly with their neighbors, an older couple named Olivia and Burton. Sexual tensions and jealousies develop—or are they merely in Finn’s mind?

Slomski is a writer’s writer, with a gift for lyrical prose, clever plotting and significant detail that reveals depth of character.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60938-282-7

Page Count: 146

Publisher: Univ. of Iowa

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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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What's most worthy in this hefty, three-part volume of still more Hemingway is that it contains (in its first section) all the stories that appeared together in the 1938 (and now out of print) The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. After this, however, the pieces themselves and the grounds for their inclusion become more shaky. The second section includes stories that have been previously published but that haven't appeared in collections—including two segments (from 1934 and 1936) that later found their way into To Have and Have Not (1937) and the "story-within-a-story" that appeared in the recent The garden of Eden. Part three—frequently of more interest for Flemingway-voyeurs than for its self-evident merits—consists of previously unpublished work, including a lengthy outtake ("The Strange Country") from Islands in the Stream (1970), and two poor-to-middling Michigan stories (actually pieces, again, from an unfinished novel). Moments of interest, but luckiest are those who still have their copies of The First Forty-Nine.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1987

ISBN: 0684843323

Page Count: 666

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1987

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