A gorgeous collection from a writer too often overlooked.

READ REVIEW

A NAIL, A ROSE

Stories about women that describe the everyday as well as the transcendent.

In the first story in this fine collection, a woman is walking home alone in the dark. Then a man hits her over the head from behind. It’s a spectacular act of violence, but the story doesn’t go in any direction you might reasonably expect. Instead, the woman, Irene, turns around and starts to speak with her assailant. “Don’t shout so loud,” she tells him, “someone might hear us.” “What on earth were you up to,” he asks, “all alone in the dark?” Then they divvy up the contents of her purse. They part on friendly terms. The story was first published in 1949; Bourdouxhe (Marie, 2001), who wrote in French, lived in Brussels and in Paris, where she befriended Simone de Beauvoir, among other luminaries. Her stories typically focus on women: their inner lives as well as the mundane details that occupy their days. In “Louise,” a maid borrows her employer’s nice blue coat for her evening off. In “Blanche,” a housewife daydreams as she washes the dishes and picks leeks in the garden. In every story, the banal becomes intimately intertwined with the sublime. Alone in the woods, Blanche feels a sense of peace. “Not that it was a happy or easy peace—nothing was happy or easy, either inside or outside her; it was a fiery peace, a peace that meant all is well.” Bourdouxhe’s prose is crisp, precise, and always understated. She’s a marvelous writer with an entirely unique vision of the world.

A gorgeous collection from a writer too often overlooked.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78227-513-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Pushkin Press

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Readers seeking a tale well told will take pleasure in King’s sometimes-scary, sometimes merely gloomy pages.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

THE BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS

STORIES

A gathering of short stories by an ascended master of the form.

Best known for mega-bestselling horror yarns, King (Finders Keepers, 2015, etc.) has been writing short stories for a very long time, moving among genres and honing his craft. This gathering of 20 stories, about half previously published and half new, speaks to King’s considerable abilities as a writer of genre fiction who manages to expand and improve the genre as he works; certainly no one has invested ordinary reality and ordinary objects with as much creepiness as King, mostly things that move (cars, kid’s scooters, Ferris wheels). Some stories would not have been out of place in the pulp magazines of the 1940s and ’50s, with allowances for modern references (“Somewhere far off, a helicopter beats at the sky over the Gulf. The DEA looking for drug runners, the Judge supposes”). Pulpy though some stories are, the published pieces have noble pedigrees, having appeared in places such as Granta and The New Yorker. Many inhabit the same literary universe as Raymond Carver, whom King even name-checks in an extraordinarily clever tale of the multiple realities hidden in a simple Kindle device: “What else is there by Raymond Carver in the worlds of Ur? Is there one—or a dozen, or a thousand—where he quit smoking, lived to be 70, and wrote another half a dozen books?” Like Carver, King often populates his stories with blue-collar people who drink too much, worry about money, and mistrust everything and everyone: “Every time you see bright stuff, somebody turns on the rain machine. The bright stuff is never colorfast.” Best of all, lifting the curtain, King prefaces the stories with notes about how they came about (“This one had to be told, because I knew exactly what kind of language I wanted to use”). Those notes alone make this a must for aspiring writers.

Readers seeking a tale well told will take pleasure in King’s sometimes-scary, sometimes merely gloomy pages.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1167-9

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more