Wondrously written, but hobbled by the sort of tunnel vision that leads to thoughts of class war.

THE PORNO GIRL

AND OTHER STORIES

Observant debut stories about women make up for in style what they don’t achieve in range of subject.

Another batch of tales about women living, if not in New York, then somewhere on the East Coast under that city’s long shadow, might not, at first blush, seem the thing that literature has been crying out for. And indeed it isn’t. Here, though, the quite talented Wexler more than makes up for her somewhat hackneyed settings with the freshness of her language. The title story is the brashly hilarious telling of a youngish mother who, looking for ways to keep herself sane during the long days of walking around with a child strapped to her chest, starts inexplicably visiting a local porn shop. Less successful is “The Nanny Trap,” essentially a long interior rant by a ridiculously spoiled working mother who hates her nanny for her (apparently infuriating) competence. In “What Martha Wanted,” Wexler presents a limpid portrait of the licentious goings-on at a Massachusetts mansion, while “Helen of Alexandria” is the story of a teacher at a private girls’ school and her ultimate humiliation at the hands of her monied charges. Few writers can present such powerful emotions in Wexler’s clean, direct manner. But at the same time, unfortunately, her take on life, at least for now, is so limited that the working classes are seen almost uniformly as freakish, crude. and overweight, or simply pathetic. In the end, the project suffers from too little knowledge of the world beyond the hallowed halls of privilege.

Wondrously written, but hobbled by the sort of tunnel vision that leads to thoughts of class war.

Pub Date: June 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-31057-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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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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THE COMPLETE SHORT STORIES OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY

THE FINCA VIGIA EDITION

What's most worthy in this hefty, three-part volume of still more Hemingway is that it contains (in its first section) all the stories that appeared together in the 1938 (and now out of print) The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. After this, however, the pieces themselves and the grounds for their inclusion become more shaky. The second section includes stories that have been previously published but that haven't appeared in collections—including two segments (from 1934 and 1936) that later found their way into To Have and Have Not (1937) and the "story-within-a-story" that appeared in the recent The garden of Eden. Part three—frequently of more interest for Flemingway-voyeurs than for its self-evident merits—consists of previously unpublished work, including a lengthy outtake ("The Strange Country") from Islands in the Stream (1970), and two poor-to-middling Michigan stories (actually pieces, again, from an unfinished novel). Moments of interest, but luckiest are those who still have their copies of The First Forty-Nine.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1987

ISBN: 0684843323

Page Count: 666

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1987

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