Might well amuse the slacker crowd, but more demanding readers will find the laughs ultimately hollow.

READ REVIEW

ALL THE ANXIOUS GIRLS ON EARTH

STORIES

A stylish but ultimately slight debut collection of nine stories: think early Lorrie Moore, but without the empathy and insight.

Canadian writer Gartner strikes the obligatory hipster pose of ironic detachment without delivering much in the way of feeling. Nonetheless, she uses her sharp wit to deft advantage in portraying a parade of clever, observant, sardonic female protagonists who are, generally speaking, fed up: with men, their jobs, their lives. In `City of My Dreams,` a young woman working in a soap and cosmetics store in Vancouver reviews with stinging humor some of the absurd twists her life has taken. The most striking story here, `The Nature of Pure Evil,` centers on Hedy, whose lover has left her to marry another woman. First, she avenges herself by calling in a phony bomb threat to a restaurant where she knows the two are dining. Then things snowball, and Hedy begins to make random bomb threats having nothing to do with her lover; she gets a subversive thrill out of calling the shots and seeing people dance to her tune. Nothing much happens in this tale—nothing of real consequence happens in any of the stories—but it exemplifies Gartner's quirky voice and her feel for the way people drift through their lives without ever giving away what they're really thinking. But a little of Gartner's style goes a long way: a story can only skate so far on attitude alone, and one hungers for a character that doesn't evaporate the moment the page is turned.

Might well amuse the slacker crowd, but more demanding readers will find the laughs ultimately hollow.

Pub Date: June 13, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-49911-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Readers seeking a tale well told will take pleasure in King’s sometimes-scary, sometimes merely gloomy pages.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • 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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more