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HAPPY FAMILIES ARE ALL ALIKE by Peter Taylor Kirkus Star



Pub Date: Nov. 29th, 1959
Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

This is a collection of ten short stories most of which have appeared in the New Yorker and the Kenyon Review. One of the stories won first prize in this year's O'Henry Award. If there is one general characteristic of these stories, told mainly in the first person, it is a narrative attitude of a certain maturity, if not wisdom, which has been gained in looking back, reflectively. This is an effective device exposing, as it does, touching misunderstandings and certain human foibles at various stages of life. A few of the stories are set in a middle sized city, not thoroughly mid-western, not thoroughly southern, during the depression, and involve families of good origin who are keeping up appearances, whose ""hardships"" are confined to cutting down the servant staff, wearing hand-me-downs and arranging less elaborate debuts. Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time presents a foolish pair of eccentric old people who had become social arbiters in the city through their fondness for giving an annual dancing party for young people; in 1939 two students set out from a small college for New York in search of ""mature and adult experience"" and only partly achieve it in an unexpected way; in Je Suis Perdu a professor in Paris, having just completed his book, is seized with the melancholy realization that he got to Paris too late: Paris was for the very young or very rich and he was neither. A subtle elaboration of everyday events which manages to avoid the self-consciously ""sensitive"".