With verisimilitude, compassion, and a surprising amount of nobility, Skinner navigates the mean streets of New Mexico with...

THE TOMBSTONE RACE

STORIES

Fourteen heartfelt stories about the hardscrabble Latino experience in New Mexico.

Like his contemporary Claire Vaye Watkins, Skinner (Flight and Other Stories, 2001, etc.) has a nuclear focus on a person's sense of self in the context of a physical place. He continues this style in these lovingly crafted short stories about the denizens of the desert Southwest. In “The Edge,” young Osvaldo and his crew of homies are partying at the edge of the Rio Grande Gorge when one of them falls into the canyon. Another story, “Solidarity,” bookends the male experience in a way. Two former campus radicals encounter each other during a job interview on campus only to discover how much old men change even while angry young men remain the same, often for good reasons. In “Looking Out," Skinner tackles the dangers of postmodern romanticism in depicting two young people talking about the sublime landscape around them. One asks the other, “If you woke up from your life, would you tell it as a beautiful dream, or as a nightmare?” If there’s a consistent theme throughout the collection it’s doubt in the face of one’s authenticity. Dedicated student Danny Sanchez loses his computer in “Backing Up” only to wonder if he deliberately set himself up to be drawn into gang life. In “Clean,” a junkie becomes so convinced of his own poisoned nature that, as his parole officer says, he just doesn’t know when to quit. It’s a photo album of desperate lives, but there’s a lot of poetry in the writing, too. In “My Dealer, In Memoriam,” a junkie considers his options after his dealer kicks it. “I’m going to have to start panhandling to scrape up enough change to score whatever filthy, stepped-on shit I can find on the street,” he tells us, knowing the score.

With verisimilitude, compassion, and a surprising amount of nobility, Skinner navigates the mean streets of New Mexico with cunning and grace.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8263-5627-7

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Univ. of New Mexico

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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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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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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