LaSalle’s stories are subtle, evocative, haunting—and brilliantly written.



A beautiful collection of 11 stories focusing on love, loss and—as the subtitle suggests—dreams.

LaSalle tends to focus on small events that paradoxically give life meaning—or at least cause his characters to question life’s meaning. The opening story provides the title for the entire volume, and it’s stunning. In a series of numbered paragraphs, the narrator recounts a brief encounter with a woman, a copy editor with runway model looks. They’ve met briefly before in Los Angeles but have a one-night fling in New York City when he’s visiting the East Coast. While he seems to find out a lot about her, he discovers later that she’d taken her life and realizes how little he actually knew. Another brilliant story about relationships is “Tell Me About Nerval,” in which a young college student, self-described as a “bonehead sociology major” at Cornell, goes to live with Billy, her teaching assistant from a French literature course, when he’s awarded a grant to work on his dissertation in Paris. While there, she has a one-night stand with Alex, a handsome young Frenchman, at a shabby hotel in Montmartre. Later she learns that Alex preys on naïve American girls such as herself, but the lies she feels forced to tell Billy ultimately lead to the disintegration of their relationship. The story is a tour de force and a single, 18-page sentence long. “Oh, Such Playwrights!” examines the good and bad fortunes of three New York playwrights whose lives, we find toward the end of the story, have briefly but memorably intertwined.

LaSalle’s stories are subtle, evocative, haunting—and brilliantly written.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-268-03392-7

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Univ. of Notre Dame

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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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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