Sunday, January 1, 2017
A Mixed Bag
I might as well say it: I've never liked short stories, and I suspect I never will. Just when I start to get into them, they're over. And then I'm expected to start over again with another one, as though nothing happened.
Okay, now that we've got that out of the way: I chose Enid Shomer's short stories collection, Tourist Season, a Florida Book Award gold medalist, as the "color of choice" entry for the Color Coded Reading Challenge, partly because of the lovely shade on the cover (pale aqua? transparent turquoise?) and partly because I suspected that if I made it that far in the challenge I'd need something I could zoom through quickly. Then I doubled it into the Mount TBR Reading Challenge as well.
And so, here we are. What to say about these shiny little gems of the genre? They're nicely crafted. They're peopled with interesting characters. They cleverly capture the sometimes wonderful weirdness that is Florida, and Shomer gets most of the details right. They're also a little wacky, a little forced at times, leaving a slight aftertaste of "too much" on my literary palate. Chalk that last one up to my preference for longer works, where things have time to develop at a reasonable pace.
Shomer has a good eye for a situation. Once she gets the set-up going, she can be quite adept at stepping out of the way and letting the characters take over. So we have Iris, who's been chosen as the next Buddhist saint, never mind that she's Jewish. We have Frieda, frustrated with her recently retired husband because she married him for better or for worse--"But not for lunch." We have Abby, for whom a fender bender turns into something more. Those stories are Shomer at her best.
We also have death by rapture while SCUBA diving, a grandmother who turns into a wolf (literally), a twenty-year-old who starts with small thrilling crimes and moves on from there, and a smattering of other women. These stories seemed more contrived, less genuine, and ultimately less successful. Even so, I thoroughly enjoyed sifting through Shomer's efforts, knowing that if I didn't care for one of her creations, another would be along soon.
Excerpt (from "Tourist Season"):
When her husband, Milt, retired, it was as if a bell that Frieda had heard ringing pleasantly in the distance all her life began striking right next to her head. Milt was everywhere she turned. "We're on our second honeymoon," he'd say, jollying her into another game of bingo, another round of golf. After four months of solid togetherness, while she was lying on the wicker settee on the balcony, Frieda daydreamed that Milt had dropped dead. Tears sprang to her eyes as she pictured him laid out in a casket, looking perfectly healthy. Deeply ashamed of her thoughts, she began to ponder ways for him to spend his time.