Offers rewarding insights to those willing to wade through her often idiosyncratic presentation.

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MINDFUL OF THOUGHTS

This quirky book of 20 brief essays explores various issues of modern life from a humanist perspective.

Menon’s (Women, Wellbeing, and the Ethics of Domesticity in an Odia Hindu Temple Town, 2013, etc.) collection of meditations, stories, and playful writing exercises defies easy genre categorization. The first essay, “My Mind and Me,” introduces the volume with an inner dialogue between a chronic multitasker and a mind that longs for peaceful contemplation. Several of Menon’s thought pieces expand on similar themes, such as “Rachel - No More a Mystery,” a profile of the evolution of an empath, deeply sensitive to the world’s pain, who turns out to be the author herself. “Jouska” demonstrates the value of imagined dialogue to improve relationships and increase inner awareness. Other chapters read like short stories, such as “Scarred,” a touching, straightforward narrative written from the point of view of Salma, a young girl forced into marriage with an angry, abusive man who eventually throws acid on her, permanently disfiguring her but not destroying her courage and determination. “A Rendezvous/One-Night Stand” plays with words with childlike delight as it describes the heroine’s sensuous abandon to a tryst with her inner writer: “A farrago of thoughts it had been. Or gallimaufry. Call it a ragbag, if you will….Even the probability of probability was welcome.” Not all of Menon’s inner explorations are successful. In “Dear Straight People,” a well-meaning defense of society’s outliers, she makes a potentially offensive comparison of sexual and gender minorities to those with “any other physical handicap.” Some of her writing is distractingly abstruse. For example, the introduction to “Gods! Are you Listening?” states, “It is always better to be safe than sorry. Well, that is a precursor for the anticipatory bail that I seek from the readers who are staunch believers of God.” However, that essay winds around to this canny observation, “Religion, per se, was not created by man to destroy life but to perpetuate the right way of living. In fact, it is a code of conduct for life in the manner appropriate for each culture.”

Offers rewarding insights to those willing to wade through her often idiosyncratic presentation.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5437-4289-3

Page Count: 108

Publisher: PartridgeSingapore

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2018

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

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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  • New York Times Bestseller

THE BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS

STORIES

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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