a common reader

short stories by Truman Capote and Alice Munro

· 19 May 2010 |  by Janantoon
· Published in: Engelse literatuur · English texts
· Tagged with: ·

I just read two volumes of short stories. Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Alice Munro’s Too Much Happiness. Both collections contain a rather longish story, or novella, and both gave the name to their respective collection.
Of course, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is very well known thanks to the film with the same name, starring Audrey Hepburn. And while I read the novella I always saw Hepburn’s angelic face. Breakfast at Tiffany’s takes up some 95 pages of the book, followed by three short stories. I must say that Truman Capote is a real short story writer. In a few sentences he creates an ambiance, an atmosphere and then he moves on to tell his story. I was particularly impressed by A Christmas Memory which really seems to be about his own youth. It has nothing of the usual sugary Christmas stories.

The person to whom she is speaking is myself. I am seven; she is sixty-something. We are cousins, very distant ones, and we have lived together — well, as long as I can remember. Other people inhabit the house, relatives; and though they have power over us, and frequently make us cry, we are not, on the whole, too much aware of them. We are each other’s best friend. She calls me Buddy, in memory of a boy who was formerly her best friend. The other Buddy died in the 1880s, when she was still a child. She is still a child.

This moving story is really about this older cousin. She doesn’t get a name, she stays ‘my fiend’ while the little dog is called Queenie. And really, it is a powerful love story.

I am sorry to say that I didn’t know Alice Munro before my son gave me this collection of short stories for my birthday. I will certainly buy more of her books.
Too much Happiness is a long story about Sophia Kovalevsky (1850-1891), a Russian female mathematician, responsible for important original contributions to analysis, differential equations and mechanics, and the first woman appointed to a full professorship in Sweden. Sweden had the only university that was willing to give a professorship to a woman. Being a woman and mathematician and professor at that time was certainly extraordinary and she must have had a difficult life. Munro describes with much insight the last journey from the French Riviera — where she visited her lover — to Sweden.
This story made me think of Françoise Giroud, the Parisian writer and journalist, who wrote about other strong women like Marie Curie and Alma Mahler.
The other short stories are very strong. I particularly liked the story Wood.

Reading short stories requires more effort than reading a novel. When you start a novel you know that you will stay with the characters and situation during some time. Every time you start reading a short story you have to invest new attention, but most of the times you are rewarded for this. I like short stories and have a small collection, some 130 at the moment.


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