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THE TAO OF HUMILIATION

These 17 tales explore personal and familial relationships with both pathos and humor—and all are well worth reading.

Masterful stories by a writer of great lyrical gifts.

Upton focuses on personal relationships, especially the immediacy and estrangement that emerge from the intensity of family life. The first story, “The Ideal Reader,” blends fact and fantasy as the narrator presents herself as the biographer of Malcolm Alfred Kulkins, a fictional literary lion and supposed friend of Truman Capote and other glitterati. Mysteriously, Kulkins had published almost nothing during the last 17 years of his life, a period dating from the suicide of Seyla Treat, one of his former loverswith whom he had a daughter, Flame. The biographer ultimately learns that talent is passed across generations when she intuits that some priceless material supposedly left by Kulkins might have been forged by Flame instead. “The Tao of Humiliation” (which one character within the story mishears as the “cow” of humiliation) introduces us to Barry, Everett and Lucas, three men on a retreat in the woods who are forced to confront some unsavory moments of their pasts—and in their farcical misadventures, they don’t seem to have learned from their mistakes. One of the best stories is the wryly comic “You Know You’ve Made It When They Hate You.” Here, a community-theater drama critic continually savages the performances of Molly Crane, a hapless local actress, but by the end of the story, they literally find themselves in hot water when they share a hot tub, and she realizes that she’s “as miserable at being a wife as she was at being an actress.” Upton specializes in ending her stories with epiphanies that can be searing in their poignancy.

These 17 tales explore personal and familial relationships with both pathos and humor—and all are well worth reading.

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-938160-32-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: BOA Editions

Review Posted Online: April 2, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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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 STORIES

The thirty-one stories of the late Flannery O'Connor, collected for the first time. In addition to the nineteen stories gathered in her lifetime in Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965) and A Good Man is Hard to Find (1955) there are twelve previously published here and there. Flannery O'Connor's last story, "The Geranium," is a rewritten version of the first which appears here, submitted in 1947 for her master's thesis at the State University of Iowa.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1971

ISBN: 0374515360

Page Count: 555

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1971

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