A powerful collection.

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BETWEEN MY FATHER AND THE KING

A treasure-trove of stories, from the very earliest she ever published, to work published posthumously, from the late, great Frame.

Frame (1924-2004)—author of more than 20 books in multiple genres, winner of every literary prize she was eligible for in her native New Zealand, honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Literature—is a master. Thirteen of the 28 stories in this collection were unpublished in her lifetime, though one of the best, “The Gravy Boat,” was read aloud by the author on radio in 1953. The gravy boat, part of a set of china given to a retiring “Locomotive engineer,” leaves the recipient at sea. “I Got a Shoes,” “A Night at the Opera” and “Gorse is Not People” concern themselves with the insane and the institutions where they waste away, patronized and abused. All harrowing, the latter two are masterpieces. “The Wind Brother” is a fairy tale, “The Silkworms” a savage parody of the big fish in the small pond, “Gavin Highly” a piercing parable about the difference between meaning and value. According to the notes, many of the stories may be autobiographical; many cover material that Frame treated elsewhere. A mere 30 pages, “The Big Money” is the longest story. Told from the perspective of a youngest son, it follows the descent of a family, from gentle semirural poverty to urban squalor and tragedy, and hinges on a single hilarious misunderstanding. All overflow with dazzling observation and unforgettable metaphor: “a blue vein, like the thin giggle from inside a fish, lying, throbbing, under his skin.”

A powerful collection.

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-6190-2169-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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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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Readers seeking a tale well told will take pleasure in King’s sometimes-scary, sometimes merely gloomy pages.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

THE BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS

STORIES

A gathering of short stories by an ascended master of the form.

Best known for mega-bestselling horror yarns, King (Finders Keepers, 2015, etc.) has been writing short stories for a very long time, moving among genres and honing his craft. This gathering of 20 stories, about half previously published and half new, speaks to King’s considerable abilities as a writer of genre fiction who manages to expand and improve the genre as he works; certainly no one has invested ordinary reality and ordinary objects with as much creepiness as King, mostly things that move (cars, kid’s scooters, Ferris wheels). Some stories would not have been out of place in the pulp magazines of the 1940s and ’50s, with allowances for modern references (“Somewhere far off, a helicopter beats at the sky over the Gulf. The DEA looking for drug runners, the Judge supposes”). Pulpy though some stories are, the published pieces have noble pedigrees, having appeared in places such as Granta and The New Yorker. Many inhabit the same literary universe as Raymond Carver, whom King even name-checks in an extraordinarily clever tale of the multiple realities hidden in a simple Kindle device: “What else is there by Raymond Carver in the worlds of Ur? Is there one—or a dozen, or a thousand—where he quit smoking, lived to be 70, and wrote another half a dozen books?” Like Carver, King often populates his stories with blue-collar people who drink too much, worry about money, and mistrust everything and everyone: “Every time you see bright stuff, somebody turns on the rain machine. The bright stuff is never colorfast.” Best of all, lifting the curtain, King prefaces the stories with notes about how they came about (“This one had to be told, because I knew exactly what kind of language I wanted to use”). Those notes alone make this a must for aspiring writers.

Readers seeking a tale well told will take pleasure in King’s sometimes-scary, sometimes merely gloomy pages.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1167-9

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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