Readers need not be professional gamblers to enjoy these tales, which ridicule the pastime with great affection.

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WILDE IS THE JOKER

GAMBLING SATIRES AND HUMOR

Wilde debuts with a collection of gambling-related satirical pieces populated by characters who take risks in casinos and in life.

The author knows a good deal about casinos and their patrons, and his book’s first chapter examines the quirks of online gambling. In it, Wilde’s gambler friend Melvin gets a nice haul on the internet that he plans on taking to Las Vegas, but he later realizes that he may actually prefer the virtual gaming. Other pieces poke fun at internet reliance: Wilde’s job at the website Gambling City, for example, entails meeting the staff, including a programmer who speaks only in the computer languages COBOL and BASIC. The author also lampoons how some online casinos avoid paying out winnings by claiming that an internal audit is prohibiting payment or by simply declaring bankruptcy. Later chapters target brick-and-mortar casinos and other forms of gambling. The short, fun opening pieces feature real-life people (including the author himself and the occasional U.S. president) intermingling with caricatures (such as a lawyer named Arthur Ripoff). A few recurring figures add to the enjoyment, such as customer-service representative Kathy, who’s looking for love through customer correspondence; ex–hit man Big Tony at Gambling City; and U.S. Sen. Jon Killjoy, whose determination to ban online gambling makes him the collection’s villain. Wilde also offers parodies of Shakespeare plays, movies, and TV shows while still maintaining his overall theme; in one, the management of the MGM Grand wants to hire the A-Team. The book ends with a series of conventional but entertaining short stories. In “Police, Poker, and Panties,” for instance, an Alabama cop plays poker in order to help her solve a string of armed robberies. The easygoing prose is primarily taken up with dialogue, typically Wilde’s. Some jokes, however, become repetitive, such as when casinos habitually declare customers “bonus abusers.” One tale about the author taking a trip to McDonald’s is humorous but predictable: Wilde has a coupon for a free Big Mac, but a restaurant employee tries his hardest not to give him the burger.

Readers need not be professional gamblers to enjoy these tales, which ridicule the pastime with great affection.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5455-9297-7

Page Count: 522

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2017

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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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Readers seeking a tale well told will take pleasure in King’s sometimes-scary, sometimes merely gloomy pages.

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THE BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS

STORIES

A gathering of short stories by an ascended master of the form.

Best known for mega-bestselling horror yarns, King (Finders Keepers, 2015, etc.) has been writing short stories for a very long time, moving among genres and honing his craft. This gathering of 20 stories, about half previously published and half new, speaks to King’s considerable abilities as a writer of genre fiction who manages to expand and improve the genre as he works; certainly no one has invested ordinary reality and ordinary objects with as much creepiness as King, mostly things that move (cars, kid’s scooters, Ferris wheels). Some stories would not have been out of place in the pulp magazines of the 1940s and ’50s, with allowances for modern references (“Somewhere far off, a helicopter beats at the sky over the Gulf. The DEA looking for drug runners, the Judge supposes”). Pulpy though some stories are, the published pieces have noble pedigrees, having appeared in places such as Granta and The New Yorker. Many inhabit the same literary universe as Raymond Carver, whom King even name-checks in an extraordinarily clever tale of the multiple realities hidden in a simple Kindle device: “What else is there by Raymond Carver in the worlds of Ur? Is there one—or a dozen, or a thousand—where he quit smoking, lived to be 70, and wrote another half a dozen books?” Like Carver, King often populates his stories with blue-collar people who drink too much, worry about money, and mistrust everything and everyone: “Every time you see bright stuff, somebody turns on the rain machine. The bright stuff is never colorfast.” Best of all, lifting the curtain, King prefaces the stories with notes about how they came about (“This one had to be told, because I knew exactly what kind of language I wanted to use”). Those notes alone make this a must for aspiring writers.

Readers seeking a tale well told will take pleasure in King’s sometimes-scary, sometimes merely gloomy pages.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1167-9

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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