Douglas Unger’s fiction is sharp-edged and compelling, whether he’s exploring his own boyhood on the street (“Autobiography”) or the life of a student lab assistant who bonds with a burnt-out rhesus monkey (“Leslie and Sam”) or the strange fate of a young woman who returns from a second honeymoon on a paradisiacal Brazilian island to succumb to a mysterious disease (“Tide Pool”). The collection is capped by a powerful novella, Looking For War, where a would-be war correspondent, whose older brother is a shell-shocked Vietnam vet, stumbles upon his own war in a grisly five-minute action in the jungles of Paraguay. Unger is as sensitive and knowledgeable about matters of the heart as he is about war.
Praise for Looking For War and Other Stories:
These stories beautifully remind us that the first job of the truly vital writer is to be fully and generously present in the world. Douglas Unger is such a writer, and these stories are a pleasure: full of loss, heartbreak, desire, cruelty, and ultimately, transcendence. Unger has converted a lifetime of intense experience into a harrowing and deeply felt collection.
Unger explores the monsters of the new millennium with the unflinching eye of a Saki, Poe, Borges. These are macabre, disburbing stories, as heartwrenching as they are frightening.
Douglas Unger’s stories are brave, smart, and beautifully written. They’re also portraits of America and Americans in the larger world, the sort of thing we need in fiction (and reality) these days. This is a book to treasure, re-read, and cite. Unger is one of those rare writers, one we can learn from.
Douglas Unger’s stories are a true pleasure to read. They possess not only the likeable quality of being elegantly direct and by that means of seeming natural and easily wrought, but they also portray what much of contemporary writing affects not to—wonder, and a high, complex and unironic regard for humankind in our inevitable and persistent moments of moral mystery.
The richly diverse, powerfully imagined stories in Looking For War all shine with deep compassion and a fierce moral intelligence. This is the work of a mature writer with an expert touch and a wide experience of the world. Douglas Unger combines the roles of artist and witness with unusual skill and unflinching courage.
…Unger thoughtfully confronts real-life tragedy by stirring the emotional pot to see what bubbles to the surface. … poignant and well expressed, provoking thought on serious issues as well as emotional reactions. In short, this strong and engaging debut collecion delivers.
… Douglas Unger’s Looking For War manages to remain compelling throughout… all offer startling truths and insights about memory, love, loss, remorse and redemption. Unger’s stories seem sprung not from imagination but from necessity, a means of survival.
—San Francisco Chronicle Book Review
…Looking For War is a book of fiction, but like much of Unger’s work, it crosses borders into memoir and political essay. As a result, the best stories here achieve a personal urgency and moral vitality that seem rare in contemporary fiction.
—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
…This is a knife-edged short-story collection that tests the boundaries of the form.