I apologize to all short story writers now – I rarely want to sit down and re-read your collections. Individual stories certainly, but never collections.
This one is the exception.
One the surface (as a friend of mine once said about watching the film Caravaggio) this is a collection that I shouldn’t like. Half of the stories involve academics, and all of them have some sort of connection to university life, and I on sight often hate those settings for stories. My argument always seems to be come on, can’t you write about something outside of your immediate environment, and while that might not be the most critically astute perspective I’m not sure it’s wrong.
In this case not so much. The stories set in academia often follow characters that aren’t who I’d expect (students, young faculty members faced with difficult decisions on colleagues), and they rarely follow the kind of conclusion that folks who write about academic life can’t seem to resist – plagiarism = bad, young, idealistic faculty = good (as long as they eventually conform), and so on. This might not seem like a huge marker, and it’s not, but it felt significant enough to me to help me overcome my automated loathing response.
The biggest factor in my mind, however, is the sheer incandescence of her prose. I’m too lazy to find specific sources, but I would absolutely teach “Fialta” in a fiction class, and the examples in that story alone are magnificent.
That’s enough gushing for one night.