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AND THEREBY HANGS A TALE

This is the ideal book to pop into a bag or keep in the car and carry to pass the time, since the stories are short, easy to...

A collection of O. Henry–esque stories from British author Archer (Sons of Fortune, 2003, etc.).

The prolific author of novels, plays and screenplays returns to the story format with this book of whimsical, sometimes ironic pieces. Some work, some don't, but even the least of these is entertaining. The title, taken from a line penned by Shakespeare, sets up the premise of the book, which opens with the tale of a young man betrothed to a beautiful woman who is clearly above his station. After he successfully proposes, she in turn proposes an endeavor that tests their relationship, as well as his mettle. This story, like the others, is designed to give the reader a bit of an O. Henry moment and hinges on the idea that nothing is as it seems. "Better the Devil You Know" is a particularly satisfying tale in which an evil, ailing corporate mogul is given a second chance at life, while an innocent pays the price. In the end, though, true to Archer’s theme, someone gets an unexpected and unpalatable comeuppance. There is nothing in this collection that will stick with readers once the covers close. It’s not great art, but it is great, slightly old-fashioned entertainment, marked by simplicity and unpretentiousness—that’s good enough to turn someone who doesn’t normally read short stories into a fan of the genre.

This is the ideal book to pop into a bag or keep in the car and carry to pass the time, since the stories are short, easy to read and simple.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-312-53953-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2010

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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 STORIES

The thirty-one stories of the late Flannery O'Connor, collected for the first time. In addition to the nineteen stories gathered in her lifetime in Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965) and A Good Man is Hard to Find (1955) there are twelve previously published here and there. Flannery O'Connor's last story, "The Geranium," is a rewritten version of the first which appears here, submitted in 1947 for her master's thesis at the State University of Iowa.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1971

ISBN: 0374515360

Page Count: 555

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1971

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