Think Hemingway or Jim Harrison, and know that Ray's collection is the deserving winner of the Bread Loaf Writers'...

AMERICAN MASCULINE

Ray's stories resonate hard and clear, very much word images reflecting the Montana setting of the collection.

The book opens with "How We Fall," a melancholy tale of Ben Killsnight, a Northern Cheyenne, and his white wife, Sadie, as they follow a lonely trail through the bitter country of addiction and then back to each other. "The Great Divide” chronicles the life of Middie, a massive, protean figure, the product of a Depression-era abusive childhood on an isolated Montana ranch. From rodeo to railroad, Middie's tale is reminiscent of the John Henry legend as he finishes college, labors on the railroad and fistfights his way across the great northwest because "he knows the taste of blood." "Three from Montana" introduces Shale and Weston and their father Edwin, an itinerant steel-spined high-school basketball coach. Unfathomable loss crashes into a single mother in "Rodin's The Hand of God" after her two young daughters drown. Shale appears again in "When We Rise," a meditation on basketball, brotherhood and the precious magic of being alive in the moment. Tori falls for Shannon in "Mrs. Secrest," but she doesn't see him clearly, a theme threading through the book—women expecting something from men they will never receive. In "The Dark between Them," Zeb, a white boy taking refuge on the reservation, meets Sara, a hard Northern Cheyenne girl, but both are caught up in meth, methadone and mushrooms. Almost every story is set under the great blue steel dome of the Montana sky. Almost every story follows a hard man who cannot understand where hardness should end. Almost every story watches as a lonely woman attempts to love such a man without understanding the anger, the hurt and the loneliness beneath the iron.

Think Hemingway or Jim Harrison, and know that Ray's collection is the deserving winner of the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference Bakeless Prize.

Pub Date: June 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-55597-588-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

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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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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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EXHALATION

Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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