THE SLEEPER WAKES

HARLEM RENAISSANCE STORIES BY WOMEN

Fourteen black women write of racism and exploitation, passing southern folkways, social and color discrimination within the black community, and love and corruption among upper-class whites—all in styles that range from romantic melodrama to social realism, irony to broad humor. Many of the 28 stories here—written during the flowering of black literary culture in the 20's and 30's and most published originally in African-American magazines (The Crisis, Opportunity, etc.)—have never before been reprinted. For those who know Harlem Renaissance names like Jessie Redmon Fauset and Nella Larsen without having found examples of their work, Knopf's anthology provides a convenient introduction, although—perhaps typical for magazine fiction—many of the pieces are less valuable as literature than for what they reveal about the cultural context. Dorothy West writes affectingly of family situations impinged upon by racial issues. In Marita Bonner's more tragic vision, the narrator of ``One Boy's Story'' plays out a bloody, mythic drama. Leila Amos Pendleton's uneducated protagonist insists Socrates (``Sockertees'') and Cleopatra (``Clea Patrick'') were black; in spite of the Afrocentric vision, her dialect stories would probably not pass muster today. The ``wonder-quality of her soul'' can't stop Angelina Weld GrimkÇ's tragic Agnes from a desperate act of violence. Zora Neale Hurston's ``John Redding Goes to Sea,'' written while Hurston was an undergraduate at Howard, confirms her critical standing by showing her youthful skill and talent. Editor Knopf (Univ. of Wisconsin) also provides historical background, brief bios for 11 authors; her discussion of the fiction rarely goes beyond summary and sometimes reveals surprise endings. Not always a great read, but the only anthology of its kind.

Pub Date: May 30, 1993

ISBN: 0-8135-1944-6

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Rutgers Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1993

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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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