A surreal, dark and very funny collection that has the emotional punch of a novel.

WHEN MYSTICAL CREATURES ATTACK!

Exuberantly odd and emotionally daring stories follow a cast of engaging characters through small-town Texas in Founds’ debut collection.

In the first story of this unusual collection, Laura Freedman asks her high school English class to write about their favorite mystical creatures solving the greatest sociopolitical problems of our time. The resulting vignettes—in which a sphinx solves loneliness, a giant squid stops a pregnancy, and a phoenix rescues Ms. Freedman herself from Texas—introduce a young teacher, on her way to a crushing breakdown and a stay in an insane asylum, and two of her students, the disaffected Janice Gibbs and the irrepressible Cody Splunk. Founds follows the lives of these characters through 24 other stories that range in form from email conversations to journal entries to recipes from a fundraising cookbook assembled by a Methodist women’s society. While the structure and tone vary widely, with some stories approaching self-conscious acrobatics, the characters stay vivid throughout, and Founds handles both unhappy and absurd elements with wit, humor and compassion. In “Frankye,” a psychiatric journaling exercise forces Ms. Freedman to write about her young self losing unconditional love via time and regret. Cody and Janice perform two versions of a friendly rescue—one capering and slapstick, one banal—in “Mexico Foxtrot Rides Again,” and they face murderous biblical wax figurines in “In the Hall of Old Testament Miracles.” Each story adds a layer of feeling, understanding and history to the characters as they slide back and forth through time and relationships. They handle, gracefully, the whiplash switch between depression and hilarity, between the ghost of a suicidal mother and a love-struck boy promising to invent a time machine.

A surreal, dark and very funny collection that has the emotional punch of a novel.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60938-283-4

Page Count: 206

Publisher: Univ. of Iowa

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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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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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