Breece D’J Pancake gets all the literary press out of West Virginia, what there is of it. But he’s been dead nearly 40...

READ REVIEW

ALLEGHENY FRONT

Sometimes lyrical, sometimes scarifying stories by the up-and-coming author of Honey from the Lion (2015).

What happens to a body when it’s been dumped in the woods under a loose pile of leaves? Maybe you don’t want to know the details, and perhaps it’s enough to say, as Null does, that “the bears and the foxes broke him apart and scattered him far and near,” language tender and elegant enough to serve in a Scottish border ballad by way of Appalachia. Null does not let that suffice, though: the body of the poor traveling salesman who ventures unwisely into the hollers is more than broken up—gnawed by dogs, half-buried, and worse—outside the confines of the story, ironically titled “Something You Can’t Live Without,” forgotten but for one thing: its former occupant’s wise observation, not long before dying, that “an animal has just enough brains to cure its own hide.” Hmmm: cured indeed. Not all the stories in this small collection are bleak and violent, but those are the dominant moods, fitting the severe landscape. Within that setting of crags, foreboding forests, and onrushing creeks, Null finds poetry and moments that can sometimes bear something like grace: “The sky went from indigo to blackness, and he saw nothing ominous in it, nothing but cold stars wheeling in their course, a course determined by the same firm hand he hoped was guiding his own.” Whether logging, farming, or damming creeks, the people who inhabit these stories are also mostly at war with each other and certainly at war with the land, which repays them with all sorts of mayhem—but sometimes, as in the closing story, with a bit of dumb luck as well.

Breece D’J Pancake gets all the literary press out of West Virginia, what there is of it. But he’s been dead nearly 40 years, and it’s high time someone else did. Null is a natural writer with much to say.

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-941411-25-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Sarabande

Review Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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