Eleven new stories from stylist Schutt attain a haunting beauty in elegiac moments.
Schutt’s prose is nearly tactile, and so lyrically concise that it’s maddening to read for long periods. Grasping the spare language requires attention to what is understated and implied, such as the true relationships among many of the characters. The first story, “Darkest of All,” follows a mother, Jean, on visits to the drug-rehabilitation facility where her young son, Jack, a “felonious boy,” is incarcerated. The story hints at the curious closeness among the fatherless family: Jean, hardly ever sober herself but “prudent in her daily use of substances,” Ned, her other serious son who scratches her back, literally and figuratively, and Jack, who carves his name all over the facility with a fork—to get back at his mother? Similarly, in “Do You Think I Am Who I Will Be?” the aging teacher narrator returns to his city apartment after an absence, wearing “party clothes,” all the while obsessing about a much younger student lover named Madeline, whom he also knew as a girl. Madeline “has an orphan appeal, and her famished prettiness gives off heat”; the narrator tries to write to her in his stifling apartment that smells like dog but can only come up with the word fouled. “They Turn Their Bodies into Spears” recounts a surprise visit by 20-year-old granddaughter Charlotte to her elderly grandparents’ island. The 80-year-old grandfather simply marvels at this darling girl, remembering achingly his own daughter, the girl’s mother, before she became an angry brooder and fell in some fashion—put away in a home? “See Amid the Winter’s Snow” revisits some of the territory of the imperious mother in the nursing home delineated in Schutt’s NBA-nominated novel Florida (2003), while “Winterreise” is a gorgeously mournful Thoreauvian tale set in New York City about a woman’s reluctant witnessing to her lifelong friend’s demise by cancer.
Unparalleled etchings of loss and foreboding.