Freaky, nasty, highly original, and unforgettable, whether you like it or not.



Elegant, creepy short stories with a horror-film sensibility.

If you look at the table of contents of Ison's (Rockaway, 2013, etc.) short story collection before you read the book, you will see a column of innocent-looking nouns. Cactus. Ball. Wig. Fish. Apology. After you finish, the same list shimmers with evil portent. That classic horror-movie elision, from friendly normalcy to nauseating terror, is made by most of these beautifully written, often first-person narratives. The title story is named for a game of fetch played with an ugly little dog the narrator halfheartedly adopts but then falls for utterly. "I loved her so much it was numbing, and sometimes, to jab a feeling at myself, I fantasized about her dying." The relentless, autonomic neediness that drives the dog to insist on playing ball is mirrored in a sexual affair the narrator is conducting with her best friend's neighbor, who is a "wonderfully alpine six-feet-four" and is "brusque and unsheepish, as fearless of sex as a porn star." This attitude toward sex characterizes the narrative voice itself as it describes the man's penis and the dog's vagina with equal precision. The tale ends with a horrible betrayal and the surreal violence of a campfire ghost story. Betrayal is a central theme in many other stories as well. In "Wig," the narrator lovingly cares for her best friend who's dying of cancer while carrying on an affair with her husband. In "Apology," a wife resorts to gothic self-mutilation to win back her husband after he walks in on her with another man in their bed. Sexual degradation and abuse is everywhere: in an after-school job at a bakery, in the hospital where an old uncle is dying, on the website of an Internet dominatrix. And bizarre, extravagant death—by cactus, by knitting, by famous boyfriend—is never far away.

Freaky, nasty, highly original, and unforgettable, whether you like it or not.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1593766221

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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