Stylistically, these stories are very much from another era (two of them were originally published under the pseudonym...

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THE MONKEY'S WEDDING AND OTHER STORIES

Darkly whimsical stories, most of them from the 1950s and six of them previously unpublished, by the late author best known for the fanciful Wolves of Willoughby Chase series and Jane Austen sequels.

Aiken, who died in 2004, was a kind of modern folklorist whose stories (many of which were featured in Argosy) include a repressed English vicar reincarnated as a brazen cat, a mini-mermaid no one wants except the seaman who found her (but can't keep her), a forlorn 4-year-old boy summoned from the past by the sound of music, an ad writer haunted by octopuses and the chain-smoking devil himself. Then there's Midsummer Village, which is targeted by a millionaire developer blind to its legendary beauty, which is so great that it exists for only three days a year. Even in her more realistic stories, there's a sense of people getting pulled by unexplained or unseen forces, most affectingly in "The Monkey's Wedding," in which an elderly artist goes to reclaim his celebrated painting of a German-occupied Eastern European town, 50 years after the work fell into Nazi hands, and his crusty aged mother who discovers the grandson she never knew she had. Whatever the outcome of these tales, however deep the themes, Aiken writes with surpassing spirit and alertness, never ceasing to find interest or amazement in the traps people set for themselves. Some of the stories are slight, but Aiken's elegant restraint and dry wit never fail to leave their mark.

Stylistically, these stories are very much from another era (two of them were originally published under the pseudonym Nicholas Dee), but the moral insights in them are timeless.

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-931520-74-4

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Small Beer Press

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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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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A welcome introduction to a major author and a pleasure for fans of contemporary European literature.

FLIGHTS

Thoughts on travel as an existential adventure from one of Poland’s most lauded and popular authors.

Already a huge commercial and critical success in her native country, Tokarczuk (House of Day, House of Night, 2003) captured the attention of Anglophone readers when this book was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2018. In addition to being a fiction writer, Tokarczuk is also an essayist and a psychologist and an activist known—and sometimes reviled—for her cosmopolitan, anti-nationalist views. Her wide-ranging interests are evident in this volume. It’s not a novel exactly. It’s not even a collection of intertwined short stories, although there are longer sections featuring recurring characters and well-developed narratives. Overall, though, this is a series of fragments tenuously linked by the idea of travel—through space and also through time—and a thoughtful, ironic voice. Movement from one place to another, from one thought to another, defines both the preoccupations of this discursive text and its style. One of the extended stories follows a man named Kunicki whose wife and child disappear on vacation—and suddenly reappear. A first-person narrator offers a sort of memoir through movement, recalling her own peregrinations bit by bit. There are pilgrims and holidaymakers. Tokarczuk also explores the connection between travel and colonialism with side trips into “exotic” practices and cabinets of curiosity. There are philosophical digressions, like a meditation on the flight from Irkutsk to Moscow that lands at the same time it takes off. None of this is to say that this book is dry or didactic. Tokarczuk has a sly sense of humor. It’s impossible not to laugh at the opening line, “I’m reminded of something that Borges was once reminded of….” Of course someone interested in maps and territories, of the emotional landscape of travel and the difference between memory and reality would feel an affinity for the Argentine fabulist.

A welcome introduction to a major author and a pleasure for fans of contemporary European literature.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-53419-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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