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Plugged in together here are Vargas Llosa's two favorite thematic wires, prostitution and the military; the music that results is of a much lighter variety than the basso profundo of his earlier books. Captain Panteleón Pantoja is the very model of the perfect officer in the Peruvian Army, circa 1956: he neither smokes, drinks, nor makes illicit whoopee. Who better, so goes the thinking of the brass, to send to a small Amazon outpost where the garrison has been raping every local woman in sight? Captain Pantoja is ordered to devise a system of "specialists" whose job will be to drain off the troops' hots, and in no time there springs up a whole "Special Service" of hookers and pimps, all working for the army and shuttled about by plane and boat to the outreaches and the stray horniness therein. Running around the countryside meanwhile is a rogue evangelist by the name of Brother Francisco who advocates crucifixion as a purifying rite and who acts for the author as a balancing, complementary hysteria to "Pantiland"—Pantoja's roving cat-camp. Vargas Llosa tells the story through dreams, Army bulletins, newspaper stories, and a severely telescoped narrative (". . . enters the Paradise Ice Cream Shop, asks for coffee with milk, hears Captain Pantoja asking him isn't that the professor, the wizard? answers that's him"), but there's a sort of desperation of means here: anything to inflate a rather quiet joke. The quasi-scientific posturings of the modern military mind do come off smartly, but the satire is so local, tailored to such modest dimensions, that this is a book which seems forever to be clearing its throat before trying to involve us once again.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 1977

ISBN: 0374522367

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1977

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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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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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