THE GUNS IN THE CLOSET

A posthumous gathering of tales by the noted Cuban-American writer (The Old Gents, see below). Yglesias (191995) was an accomplished novelist who, judging from the pieces in this collection, his first and only, used the story form mainly to explore in miniature the themes that supported the more graceful architecture of his novels. Indeed, the last story here, ``An Idea for a Story,'' reads like a rough draft of his final novel, The Old Gents. Running throughout are the key motifs of his body of work, the debt owed to youth by age, the struggle to hold onto the political fervor of one's early years and, most of all, the tensions between Latino and non-Latino in the contemporary US, often as played out in a single person's identity. The best of these stories, ``The Place I Was Born'' and ``An Idea for a Story,'' have a wry, droll humor that serves to underline rather than undercut their basic seriousness. Other entries, particularly the title piece (a tale of a good, gray liberal whose son is involved in the 1968 Columbia University uprising), and ``In the Bronx'' (in which a middle-class Latina is forced to come to grips with her roots in the barrio) are weighed down with topical references that date awkwardly. For all the obvious sincerity of his political commitments, Yglesias is most inspired when writing about the micro-politics of family life and sex, as in ``Celia's Family'' and ``The Place I Was Born.'' It is useful to have his stories collected in one volume, but it's also clear that Yglesias was always a more effective writer when he worked on a larger canvas.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1996

ISBN: 1-55885-182-8

Page Count: 185

Publisher: Arte Público

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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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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