Despite the old-fashioned milieu these stories move in, they are compelling in their elegance and for Jhabvala's poised,...



A career-spanning collection of stories about the collision of East and West.

When Jhabvala (A Lovesong for India, 2012, etc.) died in 2013, she left behind a prodigious body of work that had garnered her a Booker Prize for Heat and Dust (1975) and Oscars for co-writing the screenplays to A Room with a View and Howards End. Born in Germany, educated in England, and married for more than 50 years to an Indian architect, Jhabvala described herself as a perpetual refugee, moving for much of her later life between New York’s Upper East Side and India. The 17 short stories in this collection take us from the early 1960s through 2013, though in a way they all feel as if they belong to an earlier time: Westerners, bored with their imploding lives, latch on to the perceived exoticism of India. In one story, two rich sisters (one married to a pompous American businessman, the other sleeping with him) become infatuated with a young Indian screenwriter (“Pagans”). In another, an English secretary heads to India to devote herself to assisting a guru despite the fact that she has competition for his attention from a brash German devotee (“A Spiritual Call”). Sometimes, Jhabvala switches the dynamics, as when a wealthy Indian college student begins a disastrous affair with a mousy English lecturer (“A Course of English Studies”). Whatever the premise, Jhabvala is interested in binaries; poverty plays a foil to wealth, India to Europe, age to youth, family to the individual. Even more, she wants to explore the ways that characters are shaken out of their familiar lives by “too much and too violent a humanity.”

Despite the old-fashioned milieu these stories move in, they are compelling in their elegance and for Jhabvala's poised, precise eye, which stays consistent and steady through the decades.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64009-137-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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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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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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