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LIMBO, AND OTHER PLACES I HAVE LIVED

STORIES

Published previously in the New Yorker and elsewhere, tales that will seem more empty to some than to others.

Fourteen stories from Tuck (Siam, 1999; The Woman Who Walked on Water, 1996) aim often at intricacy in design but bear the stamp of the mass-produced.

In “La Mayonette,” for example, about two families on a rural vacation in France, tone (curiously distant) and symbolism (a pattern in the wallpaper, a long-ago trip to Egypt) are asked to reveal—well, a woman’s unhappiness, but unhappiness so much without apparent real cause as to be unmoving. The exotic is used also to make more of things than they are in “L’Esprit de L’Escalier,” about a boyfriend, a car accident, and a lunch with Alberto Moravia, all told in an inexplicably parodic style (“You could tell right away by the way Massimo said his Rs that Massimo was not from Rome. Massimo was from the north, from Turin. Massimo knew a lot of people”); and it’s used again in “Rue Guynemer,” about an American woman staying in Paris to recover from a divorce (“At the time when she discovered that her ex-husband was having an affair . . . she was both hurt and angry”), a story that name-drops its way (Scott and Zelda, Françoise Sagan, Stein and Toklas) to an unearned ending. Characters get almost to the edge of gaining roundness, substance, or depth, but a thinness in the soil keeps them from growing. In “Verdi,” a woman on a dude ranch is preoccupied by the Donner Party (“. . . she felt alone. Really alone”); an incipiently religious young girl and her pretty mother wait out WWII in Lima (“Limbo”); and a woman isn’t sure how to act when she joins a father and daughter who swim naked (“Horses”). “Second Wife,” “Next of Kin,” and “Hotter” (set in Laos) are stories of the woe that is in marriage, while “The View from Madama Butterfly’s House” is an oddly artificial tour—told by “we”—of the Nagasaki Museum.

Published previously in the New Yorker and elsewhere, tales that will seem more empty to some than to others.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-620942-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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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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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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