THE APPLE’S BRUISE

STORIES

Polished, taut writing we want more of.

Spare and edgy fiction by Southern Californian Glatt (A Girl Becomes a Comma Like That, 2004) finds grim humor in soured relationships and bad choices.

Glatt has a sharp eye for catching the incongruous detail that nicely derails her characters’ tidy sense of themselves, such as the gold nose ring worn by the bullying older student in the story “Eggs,” a student who ultimately prods her professor, narrator Lilly Lyle, to push her out of her chair. Lilly exhorts the insulting student to “behave,” all the while denying her own guilt in enjoying phone sex with a married man she met at an academic convention in Arizona. In “The Study of Lightning Injury,” a husband named Mack undergoes a kind of religious conversion after being hit by lightning on a fishing trip with a friend who’d admitted, shortly before the strike, trying to make the moves on Mack’s wife. Mack won’t touch his wife after the accident/revelation, insisting that he is “rewired.” Ultimately, the story grows into a maddening attempt to sort a rational perspective. Similarly, in “Soup,” a widow learns chillingly how unrecognizable her 17-year-old son has become—running with the same group of bullies he was once tormented by. The first story, “Dirty Hannah Gets Hit by a Car,” sets the creepy atmosphere of Southern California, a land “without sidewalks, with lawns and flowerbeds that go right down to the curb,” a seemingly innocuous detail except that Hannah, a schoolgirl whose parents fight ferociously, has to walk to school alone at her own peril. In well-developed tales like “Animals” (the zoologist narrator contends with saving his zoo animals in a heat wave while balancing trust for his untrustworthy wife) and “Ludlow” (a couple of young newlyweds full of self-doubt and good intentions visit the in-laws before the wife’s pregnancy starts showing), Glatt clearly harbors tenderness for the underdog.

Polished, taut writing we want more of.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-7052-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

Categories:

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

Categories:

SIGHTSEEING

STORIES

A newcomer to watch: fresh, funny, and tough.

Seven stories, including a couple of prizewinners, from an exuberantly talented young Thai-American writer.

In the poignant title story, a young man accompanies his mother to Kok Lukmak, the last in the chain of Andaman Islands—where the two can behave like “farangs,” or foreigners, for once. It’s his last summer before college, her last before losing her eyesight. As he adjusts to his unsentimental mother’s acceptance of her fate, they make tentative steps toward the future. “Farangs,” included in Best New American Voices 2005 (p. 711), is about a flirtation between a Thai teenager who keeps a pet pig named Clint Eastwood and an American girl who wanders around in a bikini. His mother, who runs a motel after having been deserted by the boy’s American father, warns him about “bonking” one of the guests. “Draft Day” concerns a relieved but guilty young man whose father has bribed him out of the draft, and in “Don’t Let Me Die in This Place,” a bitter grandfather has moved from the States to Bangkok to live with his son, his Thai daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren. The grandfather’s grudging adjustment to the move and to his loss of autonomy (from a stroke) is accelerated by a visit to a carnival, where he urges the whole family into a game of bumper cars. The longest story, “Cockfighter,” is an astonishing coming-of-ager about feisty Ladda, 15, who watches as her father, once the best cockfighter in town, loses his status, money, and dignity to Little Jui, 16, a meth addict whose father is the local crime boss. Even Ladda is in danger, as Little Jui’s bodyguards try to abduct her. Her mother tells Ladda a family secret about her father’s failure of courage in fighting Big Jui to save his own sister’s honor. By the time Little Jui has had her father beaten and his ear cut off, Ladda has begun to realize how she must fend for herself.

A newcomer to watch: fresh, funny, and tough.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-8021-1788-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2004

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