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A refreshingly original collection of sharp tales.

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An amusing anthology of writing about travel from the online journal The Lowestoft Chronicle.

In this new collection, editor Litchfield presents a selection of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and interviews about journeys. Each writer offers a pair of works, with the book opening with “Just Entering Darkness, Missouri” by Jeff Burt, a piece of short fiction in which a father and son road trip results in an unexpected, menacing confrontation. The tales, real or imagined, can lead anywhere, from Parisian pinball haunts to the seedy underbelly of postwar Manhattan. One of 18 poems offered here, “Making Sense” by Linda Ankrah-Dove is a delightful mashup of Homer’s Odyssey and the lyrics of Bob Dylan. Two interviews are also included: a conversation with historical novelist Sheldon Russell and another with Abby Frucht, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award. Creative nonfiction offerings include Catherine Dowling’s “Two Halves of a Whole,” about her attending a writers’ workshop in Alaska to experience the territory away from the tourist trail. Among the many standout works is Tim Frank’s “Three Strikes,” whose premise—about a London Underground driver actively seeking his third kill so he’ll be eligible for indefinite leave—is inventively and uncomfortably dark, and readers will savor its devilish twist. Meanwhile, poems such as “Woman With the Red Carry-On” are drolly perceptive: “Why must I take six undies / for a two night stay?” Other descriptive passages, such as this one in “Just Entering Darkness, Missouri,” will make the reader recoil and snort with laughter simultaneously: “I examined one large jar of goose pickles, expecting the brine to be the color of urine, but if it was urine, the dark brown belied some type of illness.” Readers may be disappointed at the dearth of female fiction writers here, but, by and large, the work features a wide array of voices. Overall, it’s entertaining, varied, and clever writing.

A refreshingly original collection of sharp tales.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-73233-282-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Lowestoft Chronicle Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022

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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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The range and virtuosity of these stories make this Mosley’s most adventurous and, maybe, best book.

A grandmaster of the hard-boiled crime genre shifts gears to spin bittersweet and, at times, bizarre tales about bruised, sensitive souls in love and trouble.

In one of the 17 stories that make up this collection, a supporting character says: “People are so afraid of dying that they don’t even live the little bit of life they have.” She casually drops this gnomic observation as a way of breaking down a lead character’s resistance to smoking a cigarette. But her aphorism could apply to almost all the eponymous awkward Black men examined with dry wit and deep empathy by the versatile and prolific Mosley, who takes one of his occasional departures from detective fiction to illuminate the many ways Black men confound society’s expectations and even perplex themselves. There is, for instance, Rufus Coombs, the mailroom messenger in “Pet Fly,” who connects more easily with household pests than he does with the women who work in his building. Or Albert Roundhouse, of “Almost Alyce,” who loses the love of his life and falls into a welter of alcohol, vagrancy, and, ultimately, enlightenment. Perhaps most alienated of all is Michael Trey in “Between Storms,” who locks himself in his New York City apartment after being traumatized by a major storm and finds himself taken by the outside world as a prophet—not of doom, but, maybe, peace? Not all these awkward types are hapless or benign: The short, shy surgeon in “Cut, Cut, Cut” turns out to be something like a mad scientist out of H.G. Wells while “Showdown on the Hudson” is a saga about an authentic Black cowboy from Texas who’s not exactly a perfect fit for New York City but is soon compelled to do the right thing, Western-style. The tough-minded and tenderly observant Mosley style remains constant throughout these stories even as they display varied approaches from the gothic to the surreal.

The range and virtuosity of these stories make this Mosley’s most adventurous and, maybe, best book.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4956-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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