It's a mess (the concluding episode is especially disjointed and truncated), but Grandmother's sensual energies and fluent...



Another inveterate yarnspinner dominates this chaotically structured yet frequently entertaining third novel (Blessed Is the Fruit, 1997, etc.) from American-born Antoni, who grew up in the Bahamas.

The place is the village of Chaguarameras on the island of Corpus Christi, and the storyteller is the (unnamed) eponymous Grandmother, a 96-year-old powerhouse who regales her young grandson Johnny with lavish extended tales of her commercial (and, coincidentally, heavily sexual) adventures. Most of them occurred during WWII, when American soldiers were stationed on Corpus Christi, the whorehouse trade thrived, and Grandmother matched wits with two importunate adversaries and admirers: a self-styled "King" (of a traveling carnival) who tried to dupe her into financing the search for a sunken pirate ship laden with treasure, and a white-suited Kentucky "Colonel" who helped her build a fast-food pizza enterprise, then later marketed Grandmother herself—as calypso singer "Lady Lobo." Neither of them is quite what he seems, and there's a similar abundance of unreality in Grandmother's hair-raising stories about a prowling "tiger that liked to eat cheese," a gorgeous seductress who murders and mutilates her lovers, an adopted girl and a "slaveboy" who shape-shift respectively into an iguana and an anaconda (the novel’s best sequence), and even a story set in "the old old time" of Sir Walter Raleigh and the Spanish conquistadors (which Grandmother claims to remember clearly). All this is more than a bit oppressively lush, but this time out Antoni reins in the Caribbean patois, and offers several delicious contrasts between the islanders' uninhibited carnality and American sexual timidity ("where . . . [the U.S. soldiers] came from, it was against the law even to play with yourself before the age of twenty-one").

It's a mess (the concluding episode is especially disjointed and truncated), but Grandmother's sensual energies and fluent loquacity make this Antoni's most accessible and enjoyable fiction nevertheless.

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8021-1687-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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Readers seeking a tale well told will take pleasure in King’s sometimes-scary, sometimes merely gloomy pages.

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A gathering of short stories by an ascended master of the form.

Best known for mega-bestselling horror yarns, King (Finders Keepers, 2015, etc.) has been writing short stories for a very long time, moving among genres and honing his craft. This gathering of 20 stories, about half previously published and half new, speaks to King’s considerable abilities as a writer of genre fiction who manages to expand and improve the genre as he works; certainly no one has invested ordinary reality and ordinary objects with as much creepiness as King, mostly things that move (cars, kid’s scooters, Ferris wheels). Some stories would not have been out of place in the pulp magazines of the 1940s and ’50s, with allowances for modern references (“Somewhere far off, a helicopter beats at the sky over the Gulf. The DEA looking for drug runners, the Judge supposes”). Pulpy though some stories are, the published pieces have noble pedigrees, having appeared in places such as Granta and The New Yorker. Many inhabit the same literary universe as Raymond Carver, whom King even name-checks in an extraordinarily clever tale of the multiple realities hidden in a simple Kindle device: “What else is there by Raymond Carver in the worlds of Ur? Is there one—or a dozen, or a thousand—where he quit smoking, lived to be 70, and wrote another half a dozen books?” Like Carver, King often populates his stories with blue-collar people who drink too much, worry about money, and mistrust everything and everyone: “Every time you see bright stuff, somebody turns on the rain machine. The bright stuff is never colorfast.” Best of all, lifting the curtain, King prefaces the stories with notes about how they came about (“This one had to be told, because I knew exactly what kind of language I wanted to use”). Those notes alone make this a must for aspiring writers.

Readers seeking a tale well told will take pleasure in King’s sometimes-scary, sometimes merely gloomy pages.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1167-9

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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