The consequences of failed dreams movingly delineated—in this collection of four novellas by Israeli writer Katzir, now making her American debut. The protagonists are all Israeli young women, who narrate their tales of loss and despair in lyrical almost incantatory prose, fleshed out here and there with a bit of surrealism. In ``Schlaffstunde,'' a woman attending a family funeral sees a cousin, with whom in their childhood games she discovered sex and love one long-ago summer ``when the world was all gold and everything was possible and everything was about to happen.'' Their solemn but improvised ``play'' marriage and first night had been interrupted, and their grandmother's death shortly thereafter ended their summers together—but she has never forgotten their pledges of love, nor what she felt for him. The narrator of ``Fellini's Shoes'' is a young, kindhearted waitress who—dreaming of being discovered—is briefly caught up in the unrealistic ambitions of an aging director who claims to be wearing the shoes Fellini once gave him. Sitting in the recovery room of a hospital, where her mother is a patient, a daughter poignantly recalls (in ``Disneyel'') her childhood, which had been shaped by the visits of Michael, the handsome and ebullient businessman her mother had loved, and she had also adored. The last piece, ``Closing the Sea,'' is the restrained but very moving story, told with perfect pitch, of a lonely 30-ish schoolteacher who takes the day off to see an old childhood friend, and finds that even her modest expectations of pleasure are doomed. At times the women's voices and their plights blur—all have been disappointed in one way or another—but Katzir's distinctive prose and fresh ways of telling more than compensate. A notable debut.

Pub Date: May 15, 1992

ISBN: 0-15-118200-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1992

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet



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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet