For the most part, although Rinehart is a talented writer, the results here are frustratingly unimpressive, an MFA's idea of...


A debut collection of a dozen stories, set in the Midwest and focusing on marginal people who always seem to be in motion, searching for some kind of solid connection that will perhaps make them whole.

Few, if any, of the people Rinehart writes about are having any fun. They drift through life, moving from one job to another. The guys hang out in bars, looking to pick up women. And the women are experiencing (surprise) men problems. Violence, usually by gun or car, almost perpetually hangs heavy in the air, whether it's a woman who has her head smashed in with a beer bottle in ``Mr. Big Stuff,'' a particularly nasty story; ``Le Sabre,'' in which a young boy gets run over by a car; or ``Burning Luv,'' which depicts a hitchhiker taking revenge on a cowboy clown who stops to pick him up and then leaves him stranded in the desert. The best of the collection is the title piece, about a college student who embarks on a doomed affair with the diabetic, suicidal veterinarian wife of his college film professor, and not far behind is ``The Blue Norton,'' wherein a lie about the ownership of a motorcycle eventually brings down a dream relationship wished for by many men: purely sexual. Unfortunately, most of the characters are flat and lifeless, as if they were created merely for use in a short story. This is the case even for a recurring narrator named Chris Bergman, who appears as a boy in ``American Arms'' and ``The Order of the Arrow'' and as a man in several other tales.

For the most part, although Rinehart is a talented writer, the results here are frustratingly unimpressive, an MFA's idea of what makes short fiction work. The stories don't end, they just stop, as if Rinehart ran out of ink (or ideas).

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-49853-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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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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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

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