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 Thirteen of the 28 stories in this collection were unpublished in her lifetime, though one of the best, “The Gravy Boat,” was read aloud by the author on radio in 1953.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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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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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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