A solid short story in a beautiful, thin volume from an author we wish we heard more from.


A short story about love, animals, art, and Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

Cisneros’ (A House of My Own: Stories from My Life, 2015, etc.) first published fiction for adults since the novel Caramelo in 2002 tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. de Rivera and their house full of love, animals, and art. Published as Volume 15 of Sarabande Books’ Quarternote chapbook series and featuring simple but evocative line drawings by the author, the story is presented in the original English and a facing Spanish translation by Valenzuela. Even though they’re never named, the main characters are clearly Kahlo and Rivera. “Mister” is a famous artist known for his drinking, womanizing, and his “frescoes taller than their blue house.” “Missus” paints at times but is mostly concerned with taking care of her husband and managing the menagerie of dogs, monkeys, cats, birds, lizards, a single fawn, and all manner of other creatures. The animals come to represent all the love and emotion present in Mr. and Mrs. de Rivera’s life and their refusal to conform to societal expectations. Why do they adopt every stray animal they can? Why do they invite famous people and Communists to parties that last all night? Because they want to. The writing is sharp and vivid, and the animals can be felt on the page. “The animals consumed more than food. They devoured Mrs. de Rivera’s attention from the moment she opened her eyes. Even before she opened her eyes. The dogs pawed and rubbed themselves on her belly and spine. They slept on her starched pillow embroidered in silk thread—‘Amor Eterno.’ They brought dirt into her bed, nosed their way under the blankets, curled themselves in the nook behind the knees, the swell of her stomach, the soles of her feet.” This story first appeared in the 2015 Washington Post Fiction Issue and has been a staple of Cisneros’ live readings for years. Cisneros manages to be one of America’s most respected authors despite her relative paucity of new work in the past 16 years. This is a good, touching story about the power of bonds and unreasonable love, but to a certain extent it leaves the reader wishing for more.

A solid short story in a beautiful, thin volume from an author we wish we heard more from.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-94644821-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sarabande

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...


An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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