THE COLLECTED STORIES OF ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER

Forty-seven stories from Singer's 100-plus canon would more appropriately be called "Selected Stories" than "The Collected Stories"—but, if slightly mislabeled, this splendid gathering does indeed embrace the ever-surprising variety of Singer's steady short-story artistry over the past 30 years. Only six of the pieces here have not previously appeared in one of the eight story collections—and they are a slight group: an autobiographical fragment of young, recently-arrived Isaac in Brooklyn (material which appeared, in different form, in the Lost in America memoir); portraits of acquaintances—from literary Warsaw to Central Park West; and two lesser examples of the more mystical Singer of Krochmalna Street. The rest, however, is prime Singer indeed: old-world classics like "Taibele and Her Demon," "Yentl the Yeshiva Boy," or "Gimpel the Fool" in zesty tandem with such ironic, autobiographical incident-stories as "The Bus." Dybbuks on one page, taxis on the next, the prose never less than finely airy—here is certainly a grand introduction to Singer for newcomers, even if the recent collection Old Love serves something of the same purpose in far less daunting form. So, with its brief, sly yet tender introduction (the collection is dedicated to the memory of editor Rachel MacKenzie), this will draw in Singer devotees for repeat readings; and it is an essential acquisition, of course, wherever those previous collections are not available.

Pub Date: April 8, 1982

ISBN: 0374517886

Page Count: 629

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1982

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

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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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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EXHALATION

Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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