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

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

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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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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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