Point taken, but what might have been entertaining as a newsprint monthly series seems slight in book form.

THE DEPORTEES

AND OTHER STORIES

The novelist’s first story collection holds more socio-cultural than literary interest.

One of Ireland’s most popular and prolific contemporary writers, Doyle (Paula Spencer, 2007, etc.) offers eight stories focused on a single phenomenon—the proliferation of immigrants to his native land and the transformation of what it means to be Irish. Doyle writes in the foreword that in the 1990s he “went to bed in one country and woke up in a different one,” a country inhabited by newcomers from Poland, Nigeria and other places who serve as the protagonists for these stories. He has continued to write short fiction for the weekly Metro Eirann, which bills itself as Ireland’s multicultural newspaper, and where each of these stories first appeared in monthly 800-word installments. While Doyle’s employment of dialogue and vernacular are characteristically colorful, the short fiction lacks the depth of his novels, with some of the characters seeming more like types than fully fleshed. The longest is the title story, a sequel of sorts to Doyle’s The Commitments, with manager Jimmy Rabbitte returning to assemble a United Nations lineup to perform the songs of Woody Guthrie and others. Why? No clue. Another story, “Home to Harlem,” concerns a student of literature who comes to America to research his questionable conjecture that the Harlem Renaissance had a profound influence on 20th-century Irish literature. Why does he think so? He can’t really say, as the story mainly serves to show his confusion over a form that has an African-American category for race/ethnicity but none for African-Irish. As Doyle says of his stories, “Almost all of them have one thing in common. Someone born in Ireland meets someone who has come to live here…. Today, one in every ten people living in Ireland wasn’t born here.”

Point taken, but what might have been entertaining as a newsprint monthly series seems slight in book form.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-670-01845-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2007

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Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.

A PERMANENT MEMBER OF THE FAMILY

One of America’s great novelists (Lost Memory of Skin, 2011, etc.) also writes excellent stories, as his sixth collection reminds readers.

Don’t expect atmospheric mood poems or avant-garde stylistic games in these dozen tales. Banks is a traditionalist, interested in narrative and character development; his simple, flexible prose doesn’t call attention to itself as it serves those aims. The intricate, not necessarily permanent bonds of family are a central concern. The bleak, stoic “Former Marine” depicts an aging father driven to extremes because he’s too proud to admit to his adult sons that he can no longer take care of himself. In the heartbreaking title story, the death of a beloved dog signals the final rupture in a family already rent by divorce. Fraught marriages in all their variety are unsparingly scrutinized in “Christmas Party,” Big Dog” and “The Outer Banks." But as the collection moves along, interactions with strangers begin to occupy center stage. The protagonist of “The Invisible Parrot” transcends the anxieties of his hard-pressed life through an impromptu act of generosity to a junkie. A man waiting in an airport bar is the uneasy recipient of confidences about “Searching for Veronica” from a woman whose truthfulness and motives he begins to suspect, until he flees since “the only safe response is to quarantine yourself.” Lurking menace that erupts into violence features in many Banks novels, and here, it provides jarring climaxes to two otherwise solid stories, “Blue” and “The Green Door.” Yet Banks quietly conveys compassion for even the darkest of his characters. Many of them (like their author) are older, at a point in life where options narrow and the future is uncomfortably close at hand—which is why widowed Isabel’s fearless shucking of her confining past is so exhilarating in “SnowBirds,” albeit counterbalanced by her friend Jane’s bleak acceptance of her own limited prospects.

Old-fashioned short fiction: honest, probing and moving.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-185765-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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BEYOND THE GREAT SNOW MOUNTAINS

Superb stylist L’Amour returns (End of the Drive, 1997, etc.), albeit posthumously, with ten stories never seen before in book form—and narrated in his usual hard-edged, close-cropped sentences, jutting up from under fierce blue skies. This is the first of four collections of L’Amour material expected from Bantam, edited by his daughter Angelique, featuring an eclectic mix of early historicals and adventure stories set in China, on the high seas, and in the boxing ring, all drawing from the author’s exploits as a carnival barker and from his mysterious and sundry travels. During this period, L’Amour was trying to break away from being a writer only of westerns. Also included is something of an update on Angelique’s progress with her father’s biography: i.e., a stunningly varied list of her father’s acquaintances from around the world whom she’d like to contact for her research. Meanwhile, in the title story here, a missionary’s daughter who crashes in northern Asia during the early years of the Sino-Japanese War is taken captive by a nomadic leader and kept as his wife for 15 years, until his death. When a plane lands, she must choose between taking her teenaged son back to civilization or leaving him alone with the nomads. In “By the Waters of San Tadeo,” set on the southern coast of Chile, Julie Marrat, whose father has just perished, is trapped in San Esteban, a gold field surrounded by impassable mountains, with only one inlet available for anyone’s escape. “Meeting at Falmouth,” a historical, takes place in January 1794 during a dreadful Atlantic storm: “Volleys of rain rattled along the cobblestones like a scattering of broken teeth.” In this a notorious American, unnamed until the last paragraph, helps Talleyrand flee to America. A master storyteller only whets the appetite for his next three volumes.

Pub Date: May 11, 1999

ISBN: 0-553-10963-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

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