LaSalle’s prose is lyrical, at times rhapsodic, and his characters memorable.


Twelve stories in a range of styles, each haunting and evocative.

In the title story, LaSalle creates a menacing atmosphere involving a sleeping mask, “black velvet on the inside...magenta satin, shimmery, on the outside.” A man offers it to his lover, who is never named and who never speaks. As he talks to her smoothly and incessantly, their relationship remains dark, mysterious, and disturbing. “What Can’t Not Happen” at first seems a straightforward narrative of a group of college students visiting art museums in Paris. They go to the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, but something’s weirdly out of kilter, for they’re visiting late at night...and it turns out they’re all dead. Two of LaSalle’s experimental stories go in wildly different directions: “Found Fragment from the Report on the Cadaver Dogs of Northern Maine, 1962” consists of a single sentence in turbulent stream-of-consciousness, while “E.A.P.: A Note” reads like a scholarly article—complete with footnotes—on several telling dreams of Edgar Allan Poe. In addition to these experiments in fiction, LaSalle handles “realistic” stories particularly well, though he rarely strays far from a dreamlike atmosphere. Perhaps the best piece in the collection is the final one, “A Late Afternoon Swim,” in which the narrator reminisces about a time when he was 11 or 12 and was encouraged by his mother to go swimming at a beach club in Rhode Island, an act about which he feels apprehensive. The narrator uses a French reference book his mother was reading at the time as a catalyst to move back and forth between memory and reality, chagrin and resentment, past and present.

LaSalle’s prose is lyrical, at times rhapsodic, and his characters memorable.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-942658-18-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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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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