Accomplished, risk-taking, exciting new work from one of our most interesting writers.

READ REVIEW

BLACK GLASS

SHORT FICTIONS

Fifteen ferociously imaginative and provocative new stories from the author of a previous collection (Artificial Things, not reviewed) and the highly regarded novels Sarah Canary (1991) and The Sweetheart Season (1996).

There are three different kinds of stories here: vignettes that elliptically portray women's fantasies of escaping the figurative (and sometimes literal) prisons men build for them; more fully developed tales of girls and women in and out of love with variously disappointing partners; and revisionist comedies (Fowler has been called ``an American Angela Carter''), in which the fantastic and magical-realist elements that crop up in her novels are central and crucial. The best of these latter include the title story, where temperance crusader Carry Nation returns to life, to the consternation of a henpecked DEA agent; the moving ``Lieserl,'' in which Albert Einstein learns of the birth of his illegitimate daughter, but excuses his neglect by claiming ``experience is a hindrance to the scientist''; and ``The Faithful Companion at Forty,'' a piece distinguished both by wickedly rendered contemporary psychobabble and by Tonto's exasperation over the Lone Ranger's disrespect for him (``You want to bet even Attila the Hun had a party on his fortieth?''). Fowler stumbles with murky stories about impaired father-daughter relationships (``The Elizabeth Complex,'' ``Go Back'') and in an overattenuated exploration of young moderns' sexual politics and role-playing (``The View from Venus: a case study''). But she's at her best in a heart-tugging story of a woman war-protestor's separation from the pacifist intellectual who was the love of her youth (``Letters from Home''); the fascinating ``Duplicity,'' about a woman who seeks and unfortunately finds an alternative to her unadventurous lover; and ``Game Night at the Fox and Goose,'' in which an abandoned pregnant woman's encounter with a female who promises her entry into ``another universe where the feminist force was just a little stronger'' reaches an astonishing climax.

Accomplished, risk-taking, exciting new work from one of our most interesting writers.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8050-5557-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1998

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more