Hardly flawless, but, like its past numbers, a showcase of new talent that shores up some developing careers, and pays...



For the 15th anniversary of New Stories from the South, Ravenel stirs up a real gumbo of southern writing: authors of all ages—some first-timers, some long familiar to fans of this essential series.

Ravenel picks from magazines big (The New Yorker) and minuscule (Yemassee) but shows a noticeable bias for writers and writing from The Oxford American, the slick voice of the South that deserves a wider hearing. Ellen Douglas’s expendable preface (a patchwork of quotations) little prepares you for the variety and complexity demonstrated throughout. An homage to Flannery O’Connor (almost de rigueur for the series) is followed by the first published story of Thomas McNeely, a surefire talent who penetrates the sad and pathetic mind of a mentally disturbed killer. The same fierce imagination burns in newcomer D. Winston Brown, whose tale of street violence captures the generational discord among some southern blacks. Tim Gautreaux dishes out a somewhat formulaic tale of a blue-collar young man who can’t quite connect with a woman he picks up hitchhiking, a self-described “handicapped black lesbian” professor of women’s studies. Robert Olen Butler’s “Heavy Metal” seems equally predictable: a girl who grows up in a fundamentalist family begins to find her “own personal Jesus” in body piercing. The romantic stories play with class and gender: a young gay photographer, who thinks he channels electricity, falls for a straight and not-very-good-looking older colleague (“Mr. Puniverse”); a sexy young girl works at her father’s cardboard plant, and seduces a worker as part of her adventure in slumming (“Good-Hearted Woman”); and in Romulus Linney’s Appalachian folk tale, a young woman (“The Widow”) finds her new mate with some clever conjuring. One particularly amateurish piece—a bit of self-consciousness about an MFA program—seems hopelessly out of place here, and has no apparent southern connection.

Hardly flawless, but, like its past numbers, a showcase of new talent that shores up some developing careers, and pays homage to the wonder that is southern fiction.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2000

ISBN: 1-56512-295-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2000

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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