Edward Hopper, the painter of American loneliness, inspires a selection of short stories from a host of notable writers.
Whether rural or urban, the largely, sometimes fully unpopulated spaces of Hopper's canvases speak so deeply to the American yearning to belong that the images seem to have been plucked right from the country's collective unconscious. We know every one of these places even if we have never seen them. It's no surprise then that the work Hopper inspires in this volume is not cheerful, but the best of it goes deep. Joe R. Lansdale's "The Projectionist" takes the lone usherette in Hopper's 1939 "New York Movie" as the starting point for a story about unrequited love and revenge. It is, as with much of Lansdale, sometimes brutal but never underfelt. Stephen King lets his demon grin show in the brief and nasty "The Music Room," a slick sick joke of a tale. Kris Nelscott, author of the excellent Smokey Dalton detective series, turns in a vivid and melancholy period piece about race and the Great Depression with "Still Life, 1931." And in "Girlie Show," Megan Abbott opens the book and leaves everyone else trying to catch up to her. This bitter tale of marriage and jealousy and the sweetness of sex turning to poison has the authenticity of lived experience, the weariness and longing of the beaten-down characters you see in Hopper's work.
This strong collection begins in a spirit of homage but winds up showing how powerful inspiration can be.