Love, or at least sex, everywhere in dirty brilliances that are set amid merely lewd victories.



Fourteen delightful debut stories more often than not about man’s powerlessness in the face of feminine beauty.

“What we want is the glib aria of disastrous love, which is, finally, the purest expression of self-contempt,” Almond tells us, though the range of love taken up here suggests that another part of him knows better. In the title story, a young man who covers heavy metal bands for a local newspaper learns of humanity’s necessary failures when he discovers his own propensity for betrayal. “Among the Ik” is a touching tale of an academic’s grief and impending mortality told through the retold story of his having once been called upon to identify the body of a student. “The Last Single Days of Don Viktor Potapenko” features a lewd but oddly wise barfly in pre-casino Atlantic City who passes his weird wisdom onto our slumming teenaged narrator; and in “Geek Player, Love Slayer,” a woman’s fascination with a dimwitted officemate becomes a modern anti-love story and a catalogue of all the MTV turns of phrase most would find artless. A boy in “Valentino” fails to come of age but succeeds in learning something of small-town romance, while “The Pass” is an anthropologically toned multicharacter treatment of the traditional sloppy initiation of affection, and “How to Love a Republican” is a love story set during the Bush-Gore election debacle. Almond is at his best when emotion moves his plots and not the other way around, but even his misses are better than most first-time authors’ hits. There may be occasional repetitiveness to overcome, and the kinds of sex here may repel some, but more important is Almond’s realization that in all love stories “There is a point you reach, I mean, when you are just something bad that happened to someone else.”

Love, or at least sex, everywhere in dirty brilliances that are set amid merely lewd victories.

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8021-1630-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



What's most worthy in this hefty, three-part volume of still more Hemingway is that it contains (in its first section) all the stories that appeared together in the 1938 (and now out of print) The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. After this, however, the pieces themselves and the grounds for their inclusion become more shaky. The second section includes stories that have been previously published but that haven't appeared in collections—including two segments (from 1934 and 1936) that later found their way into To Have and Have Not (1937) and the "story-within-a-story" that appeared in the recent The garden of Eden. Part three—frequently of more interest for Flemingway-voyeurs than for its self-evident merits—consists of previously unpublished work, including a lengthy outtake ("The Strange Country") from Islands in the Stream (1970), and two poor-to-middling Michigan stories (actually pieces, again, from an unfinished novel). Moments of interest, but luckiest are those who still have their copies of The First Forty-Nine.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1987

ISBN: 0684843323

Page Count: 666

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1987

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet