A bold, if opaque, collection that often feels like avant-garde poetry compressed from stanzas to paragraphs.

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Split Brain

A COLLECTION OF SHORT PROSE

A short fiction and poetry specialist collects 33 pieces of experimental, surreal, and mildly otherworldly prose.

Hemmings (Saints in Limbo, 2016, etc.) is also a poet, and these short works (some only paragraphs)—highly experimental, many previously published by small presses and in flash-fiction anthologies—oftentimes blur the line between narrative and verse. Indeed, one short-short that purports to be an excerpt from a longer piece (“Cat People Among Us”) is virtually indistinguishable from the bulk of the items, having very little to offer in the way of a standard beginning-middle-end structure. That said, there is as much here to intrigue readers as well as to infuriate them: strange Twilight Zone synchronicities such as the recurring imagery of department store mannequins (and what their private lives and thoughts might be like), surrealism, the year 1971, weirdly bereaved/dead parents, an on-again, off-again flame named Alice White, and a UFO-obsessed boho chick named Zin, who might well be the ideal readership for this type of material. (She dies of a brain tumor at the end of “Dancing the Alien,” one of the more linear tales, becoming the Hemmingsian version of Jenny from Erich Segal’s Love Story.) In “We Married for the Right Reasons,” the author channels the voice of doomed Warhol superstar Edie Sedgwick during her short marriage to fellow addict Michael Post—better have an Internet search engine fired up for all the missing background information. “Buzz Fly,” perhaps the most conventional of the unconventional set, describes a 1971 gathering of increasingly disillusioned counterculture types whose time together is shattered by a freak aviation tragedy. More typical is this micro-narrative: “Trouble was disguised as bare trees. My father must have plunged-dived into his reflection, maybe dreaming of a new route to China. My mother sat at the window, paralyzed in her own frozen seas. She never asked for a tablespoon of love. The sled dogs waited, soft-eyed, panting like thieves.”

A bold, if opaque, collection that often feels like avant-garde poetry compressed from stanzas to paragraphs.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5375-1906-7

Page Count: 92

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2016

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

ALMOST JUST FRIENDS

Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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