'Although it is difficult to believe, the 60s are not fictional; they actually happened' (from the Author's Note). "Hearts in Atlantis" comprises of five brilliant, interconnected, sequential narratives, each deeply rooted in the 60s and haunted by the Vietnam War: In "Low Men in Yellow Coats", 11-year-old Bobby discovers that adults are sometimes ...
'Although it is difficult to believe, the 60s are not fictional; they actually happened' (from the Author's Note). "Hearts in Atlantis" comprises of five brilliant, interconnected, sequential narratives, each deeply rooted in the 60s and haunted by the Vietnam War: In "Low Men in Yellow Coats", 11-year-old Bobby discovers that adults are sometimes not rescuers but at the heart of the terror. In the title story, a bunch of college kids get hooked on a card game, discover the possibility of protest and confront their own collective heart of darkness. In "Blind Willie" and "Why We're in Vietnam", two men who grew up with Bobby in suburban Connecticut try to fill the emptiness of the post-Vietnam era. And in "Heavenly Shades of Night are Falling", Bobby returns to his hometown where one final secret, the hope of redemption, and his heart's desire may await him.
While admitting he has written several books that became cracker jack movies, I admit I am not a Stephen King fan. Decades ago I tried one of his books---I forget which---found it unreadable and have not gone back.
Until now. For which I thank The Slickster. She made the recommendation and she has found so many of my favorite writers on her own or enjoyed them at my suggestion I decided to follow her advice. Good decision on my part.
Part of the book's appeal, I warn you, is that it starts about the time I started to become aware of the world, about the time I started to have memories. He progresses through my college time, missing my exact years by one. Playing cards figures strongly here, and while the game is different, cards were a big part of my college days, as well as for about a decade afterwards.
King describes the mood of the periods he covers, and it is not a surprize his college days were spent at the same time mine were, and not far away from where I was. His description of how Viet Nam seemed to many of those who participated resonates, a thing I know because a few who were there have confided in me, to my great honor, and because a few of the more driven have written about their experiences.
Starting as a bildungsroman and progressing to later life for different characters, the story lines converge in odd ways. Suitably, parts of the book incorporate a soupcon of the super-normal. We accept it, as we accept that Shane is good with a gun or that people can change, a concept strongly underlined by the presence of "Lord of the Flies" throughout much of the book. Indeed, part of the appeal is the reference and homage paid to the 'classical' novels we used to read in high school: "Lord of the Flies", "A Separate Peace", "Catcher in the Rye", "1984", "Brave New World", "Of Mice and Men' and so on. If these were not your generation's books, that is fine. You will recognize your own books and movies here; you will recognize yourself.
The nature of courage, the force of addiction, the bonds formed when young, the difficulty of growing up, the phases of life all form threads throughout the book. "A different kind of novel" to quote The Slickster.
Oct 28, 2008
An excellent book, however you must read to the very last page to get the full impact, if you stop too early you will miss a lot. This is a great example of Steven King tying everything together in such a way as to have you thinking about the book after you have read it. A classic example of the authors creativity at its best.
Jul 24, 2008
A King Great
Very good book by King, an intriguing, intimate, and intertwining story that is alittle unlike most of King's bogeyman tales.
Publishers Weekly, 1999-11-01 This collection of five thematically linked short stories dwells on the legacy of the 1960s. They share a collective moodiness, a feeling of depressed hangover coming after youth has been lost and the nation has suffered troubled times. Read aloud, this pungent atmosphere is especially strong. A-list actor Hurt stylishly performs the lengthy opener, "Low Men in Yellow Coats," in which 11-year-old Bobby Garfield falls under the spell of an older man his mother has taken in as a boarder (a father figure who introduces him first to literature?Lord of the Flies?then to supernatural phenomena). Hurt skillfully evokes pathos from the story's fine detailing: its sense of small-town place and Bobby's child's-eye-view of the evil characters around him. King reads the title story, "Hearts in Atlantis," about Maine college students who mindlessly play cards instead of studying while the Vietnam War rages in the background. The author's modest, reedy voice rings with autobiographical truth?as the protagonist is a young would-be writer, na´ve to the ways of the world. Taken together, at 21 hours' listening, however, King's shining moments too often give way to fatigue: the stories are repetitious, full of plot rehashings and meaningless asides. Also available on CD. Simultaneous release with the Scribner hardcover. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly, 1999-07-26 By "Atlantis," King means the 1960s, that otherworldly decade that, like the fabled continent, has sunk into myth. By "hearts," he means not just the seat of love but the card game, which figures prominently in the second of the five scarcely linked narratives in this full-bodied but disjointed omnibus, King's third (after Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight). The stories proceed chronologically, from 1960 to 1999. The first, the novel-length "Low Men in Yellow Coats," is the most traditionally King: an alienated youth, Bobby Garfield, is befriended by a new neighbor, the elderly Ted Brautigan, who introduces him to literature and turns out to be on the run from villainous creatures from another time/dimension. A potent coming-of-age tale, the story connects to King's Dark Tower saga. The novella-length title entry, set in 1966 and distinguished by a bevy of finely etched characters, concerns a college dorm whose inhabitants grow dangerously addicted to hearts. The last three pieces are short stories. "Blind Willie," set in 1983, details the penance paid by a Vietnam vet for a wartime sin, as does "Why We're in Vietnam." The concluding tale, "Heavenly Shades of Night Falling," revives Bobby and provides closure. Sometimes the stories feel like experiments, even exercises, and they can wear their craft on their sleeves?in the way the game of hearts symbolizes the quagmire of Vietnam, for instance, or in how each narrative employs a different prose style, from the loose-limbed third-person of "Low Men" to the tighter first-person of "Hearts," and so on. With about ten million published words and counting, King probably can write a seductive story in his sleep and none of these artful tales are less; but only the title story rivals his best work and, overall, the volume has a patchy feel, and exudes a bittersweet obsession with the past that will please the author's fellow babyboomers?King nails the `60s and its legacy?but may make others grind their teeth. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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