A VOCATION AND A VOICE: Stories by Kate Chopin


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An intriguing collection of stories by the author of The Awakening (see Toth's biography of Chopin on p. 1447)--a book that so appalled her public that her publisher cancelled the collection she called A Vocation and a Voice in 1899. So here, for the first time, are those stories, which document Chopin's talents for florid emotionalism and lively dialect, as well as her eccentricities--though it should be noted that some of the entries have previously been anthologized. The title tale chronicles a young man's coming of age as he wanders around the South with a fortuneteller named Suzima, ""The Egyptian Maid,"" who introduces him to sex. In Chopin's hands, eros is inextricably bound up with the boy's love of nature, though he eventually shakes himself free from the woman and joins a religious order, erecting a wall around himself which cannot quite keep out the cajoling sound of Suzima's voice. In this and other stories, Chopin's endings are so vague as to seem hieroglyphic. Sometimes, though, she attempts to imitate her favorite writer, Maupassant, producing bracing final twists, as in ""The Story of an Hour,"" about a woman who receives the news that her husband has died with unadulterated joy, only to have him walk through the door minutes later. Chopin indulges her penchant for thick emotionalism--which becomes on occasion grotesque--in pieces like ""Her Letters,"" and her irrepressible desire to shock in obliquely tackling subjects like lesbianism and hashish smoking. An indispensable addition to the slim Chopin oeuvre. The collection doesn't establish her as a major short-story writer, but it does illuminate the mind that produced The Awakening--and is interesting, too, as a literary artifact, since here Chopin spins out dreams the last century couldn't tolerate.

Pub Date: Jan. 8th, 1990
ISBN: 0140390782
Publisher: Penguin