A collection of heartfelt, deftly composed stories about the human condition.

NOT EVERYONE IS SPECIAL

Fifteen sharp and cutting short stories from Austin-based writer Denslow.

Denslow opens his debut collection by quoting a Tom Waits song, so it’s no surprise the characters within resemble the kinds of affable, sometimes-laughable sad sacks and beautiful losers you find in American fiction from Steinbeck to Bukowski. The opener, “Too Late for a Lot of Things,” resembles Sedaris’ infamous “Santaland Diaries,” if the smallish person at Santa’s Workshop were meaner and tormented by heartland hicks instead. Denslow clearly likes flash fiction, and you find it in ultrashort pieces like “My Particular Tumor,” which recalls the narrator’s obsession with his organs in Palahniuk’s Fight Club, and “Bio,” which chronicles the sad bylines of a writer in a failing marriage. Palahniuk’s underground echoes again in “Punch,” which imagines that citizens are given a pair of federally mandated vouchers to legally pummel someone every now and again. The stories here are deeply grounded in everyday life, mostly among people who aren’t making very much of their days, but Denslow allows a touch of magical realism every now and again. In “Proximity,” our leading man can teleport. “It just hurts like a bitch,” though. Meanwhile in “Dorian Vandercleef," a writer discovers that the subject of his novel is in fact writing the same book—in the first person. Finally, in the title story, a troubled youngster in a strange institute yearns to discover his secret power. Elsewhere, the specter of death hangs over stories in ways both morbid and morbidly funny. The narrator of “Mousetrap” gives his running monologue of suicidal thoughts before an ironic accident saves his life. Another guy attends the funeral of a friend, albeit in hopes of getting laid. When a best friend dies in “Extra Ticket,” the survivor doesn’t know how to process his grief.

A collection of heartfelt, deftly composed stories about the human condition.

Pub Date: March 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-7328686-2-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: 7.13 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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