Quade is a writer to watch.

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NIGHT AT THE FIESTAS

STORIES

Debut collection of stories set in New Mexico from an award-winning writer.

Family ties—and family fissures—play a significant role in each piece. Catholic faith and practice are also prominent. In “The Five Wounds,” a perennially unemployed and generally defeated man prepares to play the role of Jesus in a Passion play while trying to deal with his pregnant teenage daughter. Although the symbolic resonances are heavy, Quade’s plainspoken style and mordant sense of humor save the story from bathos: “Thirty-three years old, the same as Our Lord, but Amadeo is not a man with ambition. Even his mother will tell you that.” Indeed, many of these stories illuminate a world in which religious belief gives shape to everyday reality. “Ordinary Sins”—previously published in The New Yorker—features another unwed, expectant mother negotiating a religious world in which women have no authority. Corpus Christi celebrations provide a climactic turning point in “Nemecia,” the strongest story in the collection and the one that gained entry into Best American Short Stories 2013. Quade offers readers a door into worlds that are likely unfamiliar, and she gives them the gift of letting them find their own ways. She doesn’t bother to describe, for example, the society of flagellants that has existed in New Mexico—just beneath the official notice of the church—for centuries, nor does she explain the different worldviews and doctrinal positions of an American priest and his more conservative African colleague. But while she grounds her stories in a specific cultural setting, Quade offers visions of family that have universal resonance. In “Mojave Rats,” a young mother is outsmarted and overwhelmed by her 7-year-old daughter, and her recognition of this fact does nothing to change it.

Quade is a writer to watch.

Pub Date: March 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-393-24298-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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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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