A light-footed exploration of the mysteries of our existence, with the consistent theme that paradise is here on Earth.




Sixty-four mystical fables purportedly told to the author by powerful, entrancing women he's encountered in a far-ranging life.

A securities attorney in Palo Alto, California, a mathematician in Amsterdam, a novelist in London, a hitchhiker, a carpenter, and a longtime resident of the city of Salamanca are among the storytellers credited with the short tales recounted by Nightingale (Granada: Pomegranate in the Hand of God, 2015, etc.) in his new collection. Each one sheds some light on the nature of life, love, death, sex, time, and other stuff like that. For example, a Bible scholar he meets at a theology conference in New Orleans (where he is able to observe that, as a group, theologians “have an abiding affection for gumbo and rum drinks”) offers a retelling of the story of the Garden of Eden that erases original sin and makes Eve a hero. After spending the day with a Moroccan woman in her kitchen in Fez, the author learns that “Honey in the cupboard is still sweet" and “What you pay for with money, you buy with your life.” A woman who works at the Elliot Bay bookstore in Seattle reveals that “the life we choose [is] more disconcerting and extraordinary than many would wish: for it turns out that whatever we do, day by day and in every minute too, by our every thought and every action, whether we want to or not, we are telling each other the truth.” If these insights draw you in, make you think, or give you spiritual goosebumps, this book will be an ice cream store with 64 flavors. Many of the stories tell of women with extraordinary powers, such as “Beautiful Doctor of Faith Meets the Janitor,” heard in an ICU in Dallas, Texas.

A light-footed exploration of the mysteries of our existence, with the consistent theme that paradise is here on Earth.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016

ISBN: 9781619027923

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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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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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