This is an uneven gathering but free of duds, and Evers often achieves the special pleasure of short stories, infusing small...




These short stories explore varieties of family strife and warmth in a style with roots in Raymond Carver but more humor, sympathy, and sinew.

In the opening story, “Lakelands,” a man recalls revealing his homosexuality when he was a teen to his laborer father and lying about why he was beaten up by a group of youths. The interplay of guilt, understanding, hope, and violence reveals that this British writer (If This Is Home, 2012, etc.) has many colors and layers on his canvas. “Frequencies” begins with a catalog of observations that signal a father’s anxiety over the infant he's minding while his wife travels for work, the boy who came after years of failed efforts to conceive. When he hears a voice speaking in the baby monitor about raising children, the percolating anxiety turns tangible, eerie, and recalls John Cheever’s “Enormous Radio.” Most Carver-esque and more charming than effective is “What’s Going on Outside,” in which two men on some kind of surveillance discuss how one peels and eats oranges, among a very few subjects. Evers is generally good with simple relationships: the retired man and granddaughter of “These Are the Days”; the mother who encourages her son to do stand-up comedy in “Live from the Palladium.” The title story also touches on the entertainment world, as a TV personality dwells in a past that includes one handicapped son and one estranged one. It’s an ambitious piece that shifts between London and Thailand and comes, with heavy irony, to focus on notebooks containing years of jokes that the father considers “his true legacy.”

This is an uneven gathering but free of duds, and Evers often achieves the special pleasure of short stories, infusing small worlds with more life than seems possible.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-393-28516-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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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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