This summer, I'm on a short-story binge.
Following Emma Cline's collection "Daddy," I'm reading Susan Minot's "Why I Don't Write" and Shirley Hazzard's "Collected Stories."
Minot's first collection, "Monkeys," published in 1986, began a family outpouring of books about the death of their mother, Carrie Minot, killed when her car was hit by a train. She drove unto the tracks because the rail crossings' warning signals had malfunctioned following a snowstorm.
But Susan blamed their alcoholic father for her mother's death. Three of her siblings subsequently wrote books about their upper-class New England childhood, taking different views about the family's dynamics.
The Minots fascinated me; I saw them as real-life embodiments of J.D. Salinger's Glass family. Along with Susan, Eliza, the baby, and George have written novels about the family, and its seven children. Brother Sam, upset about George's depiction of him, published an online memoir.
Susan Minot had the biggest success with the best-selling novel, "Evening," made into a heart-rending movie starring Vanessa Redgrave as a dying elderly woman looking back on a youthful love affair.
Fondly remembering "Monkeys," I was excited about the release of "Why I Don't Write," Minot's first collection in 30 years. While uneven, the collection displays Minot's cool wit and understanding of human desire. The title story is an amusing list of social media distractions.
Hazzard's stories of disappointed romanticism are written in the high style castigated by 1960s minimalists. It's a pleasure to read her sentences, reminiscent of writers such as Katherine Mansfield. Henry James also comes to mind, although Hazzard's language is more transparent.
Troubled by wayward desire and the trivialities of modern life, Hazzard's sophisticated characters express appreciation for poets like Robert Browning, evoking an era when cultural knowledge was widespread. Even when beset by emotional pain, they speak eloquently.
How nice to rekindle my love for short stories. Perhaps I'll find a book or two that revives my lost passion for novels.
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