Readers willing to give themselves over to some mystery will be rewarded.

READ REVIEW

ZOLITUDE

These stories from a Canadian writer feature characters at odds with their surroundings—and each other.

In her debut collection, Cooper proves that she can do just about anything. She's as comfortable telling a story from the perspective of a hip young record-label employee—which she actually is, in her day job—whose hand is blown off by a mail bomb (“Ryan & Irene, Irene & Ryan”) as she is telling the story of a mounted police officer who lives on the edge of loss and violence (“The Emperor”). Her settings are equally wide-ranging. A Vietnam War veteran lives out his retirement in the same country he once fought against in “Spiderhole.” In "Pre-Occupants," husband-and-wife scientists arrive on Mars and must adjust to their new environment—and their new neighbors. This isn’t the only story with sci-fi leanings. Cooper moves as fluidly through genre as she does through character and setting, recounting the tale of a nuclear reactor attempting to replace the sun in “Record of Working” and a woman who built a time machine when she was a child in “Thanatos.” What unites these eclectic stories is Cooper’s style—sharp-edged and oblique, these are not narratives that move in usual ways. Like a poet, Cooper is relentlessly original in every sentence: a drunk’s hand “is waving tentacular over his private cemetery of beer bottles”; mountains are “imbricate rows of corroded teeth.” The logic of the stories seems poetic, too; what would be traditional narrative context is often jettisoned in favor of a resonant image or associational logic. Occasionally, plots and subplots have obscure relationships to each other. In short, these are not stories whose meanings unfold cleanly.

Readers willing to give themselves over to some mystery will be rewarded.

Pub Date: April 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77196-217-9

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Biblioasis

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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