BODY PARTS

STORIES

Eleven very Southern short stories in a first collection from a veteran of the small-press scene. Many of Hoar's tales are set in the same region of Mississippi that Faulkner wrote about—but his closest literary ancestor is really Erskine Caldwell. That's especially true in ``The Snopes Who Saved Huckaby,'' featuring a plot that bears some resemblance to Sanctuary and even a character supposedly related to Faulkner. The language, humor, and characterizations, however, are more reminiscent of Caldwell's Journeyman. As in that novel, an itinerant preacher is irresistible to women, and his conquests get him into trouble. He takes refuge in a girls' finishing school, resolving to leave women alone, but he can't, and the Lord strikes him with lightning, beginning a great storm that saves the town of Huckaby from drought. It's a delightful story, funny as Caldwell, but gentler, with a hilarious sequel, ``How Wevel Went.'' By contrast, ``Tell Me It Hasn't Come to This'' is mindful more of Flannery O'Connor: A lonely widow waves to passersby until, finally, one knocks at her door. He's a newly released prisoner who has come to God, though menace seems to lurk beneath his friendliness. The widow nervously spurns him, only to realize when he's gone that the man was sincerely offering just what she needed- -friendship—and that she's more alone now than ever. ``The Incredible Little Louisiana Chicken Killer'' concerns a sort of dybbuk that attacks a farm couple's chickenhouse; they make the mistake of taking it into their house, with unpleasant results. Finally, Hoar offers several growing-up stories set in the time of WW II. The title piece and ``A Brave Damn-Near Perfect Thing,'' for instance, are both meandering reminiscences of puppy love and small town life in the 1940s, and rather wistful. A winner.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 1-57806-019-2

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Univ. Press of Mississippi

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1997

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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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