No one captures the charm of having money and using it with offhand splendor the way Auchincloss does.

READ REVIEW

THE YOUNG APOLLO

AND OTHER STORIES

An excellent collection of 12 previously unpublished stories display the author’s usual precision and ease, wit and moral scrupulousness.

The group Auchincloss (Writers and Personality, 2005, etc.) makes his own are American families of inherited wealth and power. In the stories presented here, it is in measuring the precise oscillations between the limitless possibilities afforded by wealth, and the limits imposed by its possession, that the author excels. The title story, set just before the outbreak of World War I, concerns Lionel Manning, a young man, gifted and much beloved, of perfect tact and artistic discernment. In letters addressed to a biographer chosen by the young man’s father, artistic friends his senior by a generation posthumously offer their praise and gratitude. Manning guided their careers, serving as model and mentor, insuring their success and considerable fame. The irony, as Auchincloss puts it so delicately, is that “Lion was one who could inspire genius without being one.” So rich is the life cut short that the inability of the story's hero to follow those whom he had boosted up Parnassus has no real sting. So thoroughly has he lived in the artistic lives of others that his failure never occurs to us, until Auchincloss chooses the perfect moment to disclose it. An even better story is “A Case History,” which traces the choices made by Marvin Daly, heir to a Pittsburgh steel fortune, struggling after the World War II with what he takes to be the moral implications of his own homosexuality; of Marvin, the author writes: “[Marvin’s] moderate good looks, his moderate competence in sports, and his moderate good nature caused him to be moderately accepted.” The flawless accuracy of observation displayed by Auchincloss makes this one a little masterpiece.

No one captures the charm of having money and using it with offhand splendor the way Auchincloss does.

Pub Date: April 11, 2006

ISBN: 0-618-55115-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2006

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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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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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EXHALATION

Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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