Lost treasures from a time gone by, brimming with affection for old New York.



Little slices of decades-old melancholy from Hamill (Tabloid City, 2011, etc.).

This collection of 36 short stories is largely culled from a series called Tales of New York that ran in the New York Daily News in the early ’80s. Like most of Hamill’s fiction, it’s a mix of nostalgia and cynicism. As the author explains in an elegant foreword, this is the world, “without personal computers, cell phones, tweets, digital cameras, or iPads. A world where ‘friend’ was not yet a verb.” And yet, the stories remain surprisingly timeless, full of regular joes, gangsters, lost souls and the cold, cold rain. There’s plenty of nostalgia, remembrances of that awe-inspiring feeling of the world being new, but also the harsh reminders of New York’s hard times, not least the wave of heroin and crack that swept the city in that time. From the title story, which finds the neighborhood teens forming a protective circle around a Holocaust survivor who is their age, to “The Book Signing,” the tale of an elderly writer returning home, the message is the same. As the writer explains: “I’ve never really left. Or, to be more exact: those streets have never left me.” In addition to that lovely last story, don’t miss the other anomaly, “The Men in Black Raincoats,” a noir story that feels right at home among its companions in this fine collection.

Lost treasures from a time gone by, brimming with affection for old New York.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-23273-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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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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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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