Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Taylor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Taylor. Show all posts

17 January, 2015

Elizabeth Taylor, "Sisters"

June of 1969, "Sisters" was published in The New Yorker magazine. Mrs. Mason has had to live down the notorious stories her sister, Marion, wrote and became famous for. A young man who is writing a book about the sister appears at Mrs. Mason's door decades after Marion's death and renews the pain for Mrs. Mason. She has been living an easy and comfortable elderly aged life meeting with friends for tea and cards. This is another great story from Elizabeth Taylor (not the famous actress). The most painful part of the story, for Mrs. Mason, is that the stories her sister wrote were not about Mrs. Mason as everyone believed but about Marion herself. "It had never, never been as she had written of it."

Wikipedia entry about the author, Elizabeth Taylor

15 January, 2015

Elizabeth Taylor, "Girl Reading"

In the beginning, "Etta's desire was to belong," and at the end "It was the most extraordinary happening of her life, the most incredible," and "...a long, long time ahead though she must wait to do so--would be the best possible way of belonging." The story ends with Etta having gained hope that she'll eventually escape her mother's judgements, her poverty, her shame. Although Etta loves her mother, she doesn't fully understand the struggles that have made her mother like she is. But she is starting to appreciate her efforts. "She was grateful to her mother about the sherry and understood that it had been an effort towards meeting Mrs. Lippmann's world half-way..." Etta's mother, kudos to her, really does try for the sake of her daughter.

The two sixteen year-old young women, Etta and Sarah, were "school-friends." Sarah's family, the Lippmann's, invited Etta to spend a week at their house. However, understood by all, is that the favor will not be returned because Etta's mother is poor, widowed and judgmental. Etta's dreadful life allowed her to always have her vacation reading done while Sarah could barely snatch before bedtime reading. Etta spends the week at Sarah's house and Etta is consumed with watching and thinking about Sarah's older brother and his fiancee. Sarah and her brothers are dismayed by their own mother's behavior and unsuitability of her comments and actions for her age. All the while, David, another one of Sarah's brothers, has fallen for Etta. Etta only finds out about it after she's returned home and finds a letter from Roger in her suitcase.

The point of view is shifting 3rd person. Once again, Taylor's observations of human behavior and emotions are astute. When the letter arrived from Mrs. Lippmann, Etta had been inadvertently locked out of the house and could only see the letter through the mail drop. This is a nice metaphor for the far away view she has of the Lippmanns' life, house and circumstances. "The Lippmann's would even have better weather, she thought bitterly."

"Girl Reading" was first published in The New Yorker, July 29, 1961 and then included in the newly published collection, You'll Enjoy It When You Get There.

Favorite Lines:
"When they were children, Sarah said, she brought back petit fours from parties; now she brought back faux pas."

"But she had a way of looking about her with boredom when she returned, as if she had made the transition unwillingly and incompletely. She hurt her mother--who wished only to do everything in the world for her, having no one else to please or protect."

link to the New Yorker, Taylor's story, "Girl Reading"

13 January, 2015

Elizabeth Taylor, "The Rose, the Mauve, the White"

First published June 22, 1957 in the New Yorker, "The Rose, the Mauve, the White" is included in a newly published collection of Elizabeth Taylor's  [not the famous actress] short stories, You'll Enjoy it When You Get There. This story is about three school girls, sixteen years old, and the dance they are preparing for and then attend. It's a great characterization about how young women see themselves and each other while chasing the doubts that they read on adults' faces. It takes place in England mid-twentieth century but is still totally relevant today. There are some things that never change, young women's problems and struggles with self-image and confidence. It's a great read and so deftly handled that you just want to re-read it very carefully to see exactly how Taylor does it. She hits the nail on the head with a marshmallow. An extra nugget of delight is the rendering of the mother who wants to be forever young and relevant and her awkward attempts.

11 January, 2015

Elizabeth Taylor, "The Letter Writers"

I listened to "The Letter Writers" read by Paul Theroux with a discussion between he and Deborah Treisman, fiction editor at The New Yorker. Delightful. The story is an astute character examination of what can happen between two people who only know each other through the letters they have written to each other for the past ten years and then decide to meet in person.

There are a couple of references to the act of writing itself as well as how the reader completes a literary work. "She was so sensitive to what he wrote, that she felt her own reading half-created it." Edmund was a novelist and he's decided that letter writing is an art form in its own right. As she walks around town, she composes sentences in her mind, "had thoughts so delightful that she began to tidy them into sentences to put in a letter to Edmund."

I'm so happy to have discovered this author because of the newly compiled collection of her stories, You'll Enjoy it When You Get There. She had many stories published in The New Yorker beginning in 1950. Evidently she had some troubles over the years sharing her name with the famous actress.

A new collection of stories selected by Margaret Drabble has just been published by The New York Review of Books. Highly recommend. Contains a seven-page introduction by Drabble and over 25 stories. "The Letter Writers" was first published in The New Yorker May 31, 1958.

"The Letter Writers" read by Paul Theroux

Elizabeth Taylor, "You'll Enjoy it When You Get There"

Young, just turned eighteen years old, Rhoda attends the Trade Banquet with her father in the town of Norley in her mother's place. Supremely self-conscious, Rhoda is seated next to the Mayor and in an attempt to appear, for the sake of Digby Lycett Junior, light and happy she regales the Mayor with a story about her cat, Minkie. Never raising her gaze above his chest, Rhoda does not recognize the Mayor who, out of duty, asks her to dance and bereft of conversational material repeats her story about Minkie. Lack of confidence often leads to far larger social blunders than otherwise. The story is a fun read with its O'Henry surprise ending.

The story is in third person POV and a couple of times I thought the POV shifted a bit, "shaking hands with an old gentleman, who was surprised to see that her eyes were filled with tears." This was not such a taboo mid-century and earlier and certainly doesn't bother me. Although, the story is Rhoda's I think an important psychological character is Rhoda's mother, Mrs. Hobart. In the opening we see the mother's character in her few mocking comments to Rhoda.

"You'll Enjoy it When You Get There" was first published in The New Yorker November 23, 1957. A new collection of stories selected by Margaret Drabble has just been published by The New York Review of Books. Elizabeth Taylor (1912-1975) was born outside London as Betty Coles.

Favorite Lines:
"She was afraid of his mocking smile and, ostrich-like, opened her bag and looked inside it as he approached."

"She was up against a great silence this evening: to her it was the measure of her failure."

Paul Theroux reads "The Letter Writers" by Elizabeth Taylor
stories in the New Yorker by Elizabeth Taylor
review of newly published collection of Taylor's stories

03 November, 2013

Alex Taylor, "The Blood Old and Strong"

Published in the Missouri Review, Fall 2013 issue, the story tells of old man Waldreve and his two soft sons, Vance and Philip who are both married to women who "carried designer handbags." Waldreve identifies more with the alpha coyote than his sons or his wife. Only after his sons were grown did he wonder "if he'd starved something out of his sons." The scene of Waldreve skinning alive a female coyote is a pivotal point in the story.