STORIES AND TRUE STORIES by Francis Steegmuller


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In Stories and True Stories, a gathering of Steegmuller's fiction and reportage of the last three decades, the style is slight, but impeccably slight. It is essentially the style of The New Yorker of the '40's: water-color Henry James, the epiphanies of Joyce (from Stephen Hero: ""By an epiphany he meant a sudden spiritual manifestation, whether in the vulgarity of speech or of gesture or in a memorable phase of the mind itself""), the delicate psychology of Virginia Woolf. Here each tale, often little more than an anecdote, has its moral dilemma, its nibbling revelation of character, its smooth, unassuming rendering of upper-class moeurs. In ""In the Lobby,"" an amusing cameo of urban unease, published in the '60's, we perceive the same determinedly minor artistry of ""The Credo,"" a clever juxtaposition of friendship and greed, published some twenty years earlier. A similar consistency of tone, a similar discriminating use of details and observations are present in the portraits of Stravinsky or Cocteau or James Jackson Jarves or Jacques Villon. Covering the recent disaster at Florence, Steegmuller notes: ""One of the macabre effects of the rising waters was to short-circuit automobile wiring, causing the horns of drowning cars suddenly to start blowing and their headlights to flash on."" That is the sort of touch at which Steegmuller excels -- hardly memorable, but apt enough, and never awkward or overwrought.

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 1971
Publisher: Little, Brown-A.M.P.