Life put to the rack.

Krawiec (Faith in What?, 1996) is a strong writer, though his work is frequently hard to take. There's no denying his gift for storytelling, the stark truthfulness of detail, the weirdly derailing sense of finding oneself in the grip of life the way it really is rather than the way fictionmongers have told us it is. In the first of these 12 stories, "Maggots, Infidelity, and the Oyster Roast," you pretty much have the basic irony right in the title. A freethinker whose job for the past 12 years has been stocking shelves at the Food Coop finds that his mate is having an affair with his best friend. To talk things over, he takes her, rather against her will, to an oyster roast in the country where everyone sits slobbering down all the oysters they can eat (a pigs-at-the-trough scene much like Leopold Bloom's dismaying search for a civilized luncheon in Dublin). Life then gives the man's true-blue honesty a whipping he'll never forget. "Lovers" is a searing comedy about a 15-year-old girl named Bonnie who gives birth to her dead baby in an ice cooler as she sets out to better herself in life by imitating Bonnie and Clyde. The collection's most complex piece, "The House of Women," reveals the way women's needs can betray them at the very depths of their lives. And now we sit wised up, but no less the fools of God.

Life put to the rack.

Pub Date: June 15, 2000

ISBN: 1-888105-42-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000



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



The thirty-one stories of the late Flannery O'Connor, collected for the first time. In addition to the nineteen stories gathered in her lifetime in Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965) and A Good Man is Hard to Find (1955) there are twelve previously published here and there. Flannery O'Connor's last story, "The Geranium," is a rewritten version of the first which appears here, submitted in 1947 for her master's thesis at the State University of Iowa.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1971

ISBN: 0374515360

Page Count: 555

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1971

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