A frequently engaging but ultimately inconsistent collection that seems like a stopgap between novels.



A collection of nine stories, with occasionally reappearing characters, set in the American West.

The eclectic Everett has consistently defied pigeonholing by genre or race, though themes of identity permeate his work (Percival Everett by Virgil Russell, 2013; I Am Not Sidney Poitier, 2009). Though those novels reflect a radical ambition concerning structure and the very nature of fiction, the stories here are comparatively straightforward. The ones that specify a location are set in Wyoming, and the others could be. Many feature a rancher, a stoic of few words, whose spouse has either died or left him. None of these protagonists (particularly the disoriented but independent woman in “A High Lake”) appears particularly lonely or regretful; they have learned to accept life and nature for what they are. The earliest and many of the best stories follow a similar progression—the protagonist heads into the wilderness (usually on horseback) in search of someone or on some other quest. Often, something happens that transforms the seeker—spiritually or physically or both—and life will never be the same (even if from the outside it may look exactly the same). The language is straightforward, almost Hemingway-esque, though some of the events it describes border on the supernatural. Some of the other, subsequent stories might best be described as “existential mysteries,” which again find someone looking for or discovering something but not in the wilderness or necessarily alone. The best of these is “Finding Billy White Feather,” in which a man receives a note from the title character, whom he has never met, and learns from the conflicting reports of those who claim to know him that he's a “tall, short, skinny, fat white Indian(s) with black blond hair” or perhaps “a middle-aged, wheelchair-bound Filipina. Or a tall black man with a disfiguring scar down the center of his face.” Race is generally an offhand, matter-of-fact revelation, as if it makes no difference whether these characters are black (an anomaly in the region) or white, and even those considered Indian may not be what they claim.

A frequently engaging but ultimately inconsistent collection that seems like a stopgap between novels.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-55597-719-1

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...


An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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