An informational, if not entirely immersive, cross section of the Australian population.

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DJERI

AND OTHER STORIES

Mallia offers a debut collection of short stories about the lives of small-town Australians.

Over the course of this book, readers encounter a slew of seemingly separate tales of the members of a community from an imaginary town just outside Melbourne. Readers meet Bear, a trucker who cares for the children of his ex-girlfriend; Jeri, the 10-year-old son of a single mother and an absent father; Bianca, a young woman searching for her grandfather’s burial site; and Alice, a “bag lady” from the Aboriginal Wurundjeri tribe. White and Indigenous characters grapple with their identities in a culture that contains both subtle and overt racism. Secrecy is another recurring theme, and mystical elements, such as spirits, sacred land, and apparitions, are sprinkled throughout. But although each story deals with a different main character, these same players recur in other tales, sometimes revealing unexpected connections. The author employs a matter-of-fact, almost detached tone as she details these lives, giving the collection a feel that’s akin to an anthropological study at times: “Kyle had lived here for about eighteen months, was well liked by his associates and friends, and had recently bought a house on the hillside below the now defunct university.” Occasionally the author gets more tactile, though, as when she tells of a man with “a short, chunky physique, stumpy fingers always sporting a Band-Aid or two, and sandy-blond hair cropped close so the curls hugged his scalp tightly.” She also paints a rich landscape that nearly becomes a character in itself: “I could smell the eucalypts, their scarlet flowers scattered across the dry earth after a night’s feasting from flying foxes.” Even roadkill comes alive through Mallia’s masterful word choices: “Already the internal gases have started to swell the carcass so that it looks like a prickly piñata.”

An informational, if not entirely immersive, cross section of the Australian population.

Pub Date: March 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4828-3067-5

Page Count: 226

Publisher: PartridgeSingapore

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

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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  • New York Times Bestseller

THE BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS

STORIES

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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