Carlson (The News of the World, 1987; Truants, 1981; Betrayed by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1977) writes stories in High Workshop Style: odd frameworks, scant forward motion, pearled with mundane perceptions of gladness and gloom that all come across as post- adolescent: ``I love to fly,'' the narrator of the title story confides—``I always sit in the window and press the corner of my forehead against the plastic glass. I can feel the little bumps in my skull which are full of ideas and I move my head slightly. It kind of hurts in a nice way. Today my skull is full of sex. I'm trying to remember sex.'' This story has its moments—a young couple, parents of small children: their exhaustion, their deferred life—but is dragged on long past the point at which its middleweight anecdotes support it as a tale. Similarly in ``The Golf Center at Ten Acres,'' a story about an ex-touring-pro who rescues his failing life by turning disaster into novelty, Carlson reaches for a rueful philosophy that is snagged by the story's overlength. The fey humorous pieces included here—like a single mom, in ``On The U.S.S. Fortitude,'' living with her family alone on an aircraft carrier—are mostly outlined whimsies; and only in ``Blazo''—a man going to Alaska to see where his grown son died- -does Carlson seem enough interested in his characters, as opposed to his own shiny voicings, to make for involving fiction. Bland stuff.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 1992

ISBN: 0-393-03370-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1992

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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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