DEEP BLUE ALMOST BLACK

Deep Blue Almost Black ($22.95; May 1997; 130 pp.; 0-8101-1490-9): Twelve stories, written between 1960 and 1991, by a skillful Greek writer who at his best offers vivid elliptical glimpses of his country's modern experiences of natural catastrophe, foreign invasion, and homegrown military dictatorship. The devaluation of contemporary culture and the need to contrive imaginative entry into the consolations of the past and tradition are subtly explored in such delicately symbolic tales as ``There Still Is a God'' and ``You Will Find My Bones Under Rain.'' And the title novella, which brilliantly portrays an aging woman's barely contained fury at the changes time is working on her body and mind, expresses in striking microcosmic form Valtinos's compact and coherent vision of a world destroyed by the inexorable necessity of change.

Pub Date: May 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8101-1490-9

Page Count: 130

Publisher: Northwestern Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1997

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A luminous collection that mines the mundane as cannily as the fantastic and extraterrestrial.

THE MOMENT OF TENDERNESS

From the author of A Wrinkle in Time, 18 gemlike stories ranging from the small heartbreaks of childhood to the discovery of life on a new planet

In these stories, some previously published and others appearing for the first time in this collection, L’Engle explores family dynamics, loneliness, and the pains of growing up. In “Summer Camp,” children show a stunning capacity for cruelty, as when one writes an imploring letter to a lost friend only to witness that friend mocking the letter in front of their bunkmates; in “Madame, Or...” a brother finds his sister at a finishing school with a sordid underbelly and is unable to convince her to leave. L’Engle employs rhythm and repetition to great effect in multiple stories—the same gray cat seems to appear in “Gilberte Must Play Bach” and “Madame, Or...”—and sometimes even in the language of a single sentence: “The piano stood in the lamplight, lamplight shining through burnt shades, red candles in the silver candlesticks...red wax drippings on the base of the candlesticks.” Occasionally, emotional undertones flow over, as in the protagonist’s somewhat saccharine goodbye to her Southern home in “White in the Moon the Long Road Lies.” Overall, though, the stories seem to peer at strong emotions from the corner of the eye, and humor dances in and out of the tales. “A Foreign Agent” sees a mother and daughter in battle over the daughter’s glasses, which have come to represent the bridge between childhood and adulthood when the mother’s literary agent begins to pursue the daughter. On another planet, a higher life form makes a joke via code: The visitors will be “quartered—housed, that is, of course, not drawn and quartered.” While there is levity, many of these stories end with characters undecided, straddling a nostalgic past and an unsettled future. Although written largely throughout the 1940s and '50s, L’Engle’s lucid explorations of relationships make her writing equally accessible today.

A luminous collection that mines the mundane as cannily as the fantastic and extraterrestrial.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1782-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

KRIK? KRAK!

STORIES

A debut collection from Danticat (the novel Breath, Eyes, Memory, 1994) that movingly brings to life the history, hopes, and human experience of Haitians. Separation is the central fact of life for Danticat's characters. The isolated speakers of "Children of the Sea" are lovers, one of whom flees Haiti on a rickety boat while the other remains on the island hiding from terrorizing soldiers. They are doomed never again to be together in the flesh. Yet the story itself — the very act of Danticat's writing (mirrored in the refugee's journal-keeping) — permits their union, grants a space in which their voices mingle in an elegant duet. Where writing can't serve as a weapon against oblivion, there is hope, though this is double-edged. For Guy, the unemployed factory worker in "A Wall of Fire Rising," a hot-air balloon represents an escape from devastating poverty, but the story ends by showing the bitter irony of his wish for flight. Most impressive is the dignity that the author reveals in her characters' spirituality. Omens and superstitions abound, which upper-class Haitians dismiss as "voodoo nonsense that's holding us back." Danticat shows the wisdom and poignancy of these beliefs. The red panties that the mother in "Caroline's Wedding" commands her daughters to wear serve ostensibly to ward off sexual advances from their dead father's spirit. They are also an intimate form of mourning his loss. "When you write," explains the speaker of "Epilogue: Women Like Us," "it's like braiding your hair. Taking a handful of coarse strands and attempting to bring them unity....Some of the braids are long, others short. Some are thick, others are thin." The remark describes this young Haitian writer's restless style, which is lyrical and elegiac, gothic and simple, sometimes all at once. Consistent, however, is her powerful empathy for her characters. Danticat's fiction is an antidote to headline abstractions, giving readers the gift of narrative through which to experience a people and a country as more than mere news.

Pub Date: April 10, 1995

ISBN: 1-56947-025-1

Page Count: 227

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1995

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more