Well regarded in France, her native country, Bizot’s first appearance in this language is a gift to English-speaking readers.


A slim collection of stories by turns witty, mysterious, and absurd.

A young man picks up his father-in-law from the airport. Since they’ve never met, their time in the car will be the only time they ever spend together. When they get back to the 26th-floor apartment where the young man, Saez, lives with his wife, Marie, the father-in-law goes inside, and Saez goes to take care of the suitcase. The next thing Saez knows, the father-in-law has fallen out the window. Marie is out of town, incommunicado, so Saez must recruit a friend to help him pack up the body and take it back to the Armenian village from which it came. There are echoes here of As I Lay Dying, but Bizot’s story is somehow even more absurd: when they eventually arrive in the village, Saez and his friend find it empty of people. Finally, a couple shows up, but they aren’t interested in the body or its burial—or anything, really, except an alarm clock Saez gives them. The story is the strongest in Bizot’s first collection to appear in English. Bizot has a fine sense of the absurd and an even finer sense of deadpan. Story after story begins in medias res, with details about the characters, their relationships to each other, and what exactly is happening only appearing gradually—and sometimes not at all. In one, three siblings hide out in the country, working a farm they barely know how to handle. In the title story, a man watches with disapproval the gardeners who uproot his yard. Throughout the book, characters wait and wait. For the most part, there isn’t much plot. An old woman in a fine hotel describes a pair of honeymooners who claim to have seen half a dozen rats in their room. No one else has seen the rats.

Well regarded in France, her native country, Bizot’s first appearance in this language is a gift to English-speaking readers.

Pub Date: June 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-944884-12-3

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Dialogos

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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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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