The eleven stories in Good Trouble read like a string of understated poems that progress, implode, and digress. They are compelling not only because of Joseph O’Neill’s memorable characters but also because of his density and diction. He wields an acerbic blade, rendering the weird and violent with a determined frugality and control ... O’Neill resorts to the landscape with the abandon and felicity of a poet ... Generally, however, O’Neill is very much jostling the real world. His voice is funny and fierce, his concerns unforgivingly political and contemporary ... Good Trouble is an essential book, full of unexpected bursts of meaning and beauty.
The stories in his new story collection, Good Trouble, revolve around various unreliable, slightly odious men, the sort of people unlikely to be on the receiving end of a warmhearted learning experience and, indeed, unlikely to learn anything at all ... On a sentence level, O’Neill’s stories are playful, evocative, intoxicated with possibility. By any other measure, they’re disappointingly formulaic. His protagonists rant lyrically for 10 or 15 pages, consider taking a grand action but don’t pursue it, and eventually, when O’Neill decides the story is finished, have an epiphanic experience triggered by the subtle gradations in gravel, clouds or plant life. He works in a Nabokovian tradition of eloquence, in which the most artistically sensitive people are also the most socially stunted and brutish ... O’Neill resembles a very talented craftsman working in a master’s atelier, each different style an argument for the continued vitality of the tradition he works in ... O’Neill’s characters float through a world whose modest pleasures are theoretically attainable but never, in practice, tangible. You want O’Neill to get into more trouble than his title promises, more than he will allow.
...beautifully crafted short stories ... Here, as in his novels, he dissects the granular details of contemporary social mores while global issues flicker in and out of focus ... O’Neill’s tales often echo [David Foster] Wallace’s mixture of humor and profundity, demonstrating a similar, almost preternatural eye for the absurdities of contemporary life.