THE WORLD AND OTHER PLACES

STORIES, 1986-1999

Astringently playful stories, written over 12 years, by the Whitbread Award—winning British novelist (Gut Symmetries, 1997, etc.). Though this first collection is brief, its author’s talent isn’t. Winterson’s appetite for social criticism mingles confidently with her lyrical instinct to give us savagely rhythmic portraits of people lost in lives they’d much rather not have to inhabit. “This is the story of Tom,” begins the tale “Newton,” following Tom through a tight-lipped rant about the pitfalls of dwelling in a suburb whose diabolically conformist code of etiquette impels its non-hero to conceal “my Camus in the fridge.” (Of a neighbor who discovers it there: — ‘Who is Albert K Mew?’ She pronounced it like an enraged cat.—) While Winterson attacks righteous insiders, she also batters—persuasively—anomalous Tom and his ilk for the fecklessness of his chosen alienation. In other stories, the balance shifts toward seductive evocation and away from the author’s tendency to travesty almost any convention. With “Turn of the World,” for instance, Winterson revises the fairy-tale genre by invoking the evolution of four islands. Her closing words are fleetly sensuous, if punctuated by wry observation: “Naturally enough this island is stocked with lions . . . The lions are ruthless as money. The gold is snap-jawed.” Although usually acerbically intelligent, her fiction is also capable of giving itself up entirely to sensory lavishness, as in “The Poetics of Sex,” a revel whose sections are framed by mischievous subtitles (“Were You Born a Lesbian?”). Winterson’s yen for invention can as readily regale us with the details of an Edenic puppyhood (“The 24-Hour Dog”) as skewer Yuletide urges (“O’Brien’s First Christmas”). Best of all, she seems willing to risk being misunderstood for the sake of taking choice imaginative lunges. Neither “realistic” nor “surrealistic,” but work that oddly alchemizes the virtues of both.

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-375-40240-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1998

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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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THE COMPLETE SHORT STORIES OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY

THE FINCA VIGIA EDITION

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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