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Linked Short Stories

The Sunday Salon.com

I have repeatedly spoken about my not being well-read in short stories, which usually don’t leave a trail in my head and I need something more hearty and meaty like a long novel to nibble on. Alice Fulton’s collection of short fiction might remedy my deficiency. The 10 linked short stories in this collection track the lives of four generations of women from Troy, N.Y., where love comes to die. The first story begins in 1908, and subsequent stories are spaced approximately a decade apart, creating a colorful patchwork of the 20th century. She may be a poet of the higher realms but her prose in this book is muscular and brilliantly appropriate. Beautiful sentences, beautifully crafted, never get in the way of the story she is telling; they just make the reader’s experience richer and more satisfying. Some of the women she inhabits in telling their stories are bereft of humor, but when her character is a woman of wit, she is hilarious.

According to the New York Times, Fulton is an award-winning poet, so “it should come as no surprise that vivid descriptions abound.” If this collection is any indication, Fulton may be firmly establishing herself in a different genre. She once said she is drawn to the symbolic elements of a poem, how they act as a “pattern of lace held together by tiny joining threads.” Her prose, however, might be regarded as a tightly woven blanket. It’s exciting to watch Fulton as she finds the right threads with which to create nuanced fiction, firmly bound.

14 Responses

  1. Eloquent review. Loved your use of the blanket metaphor to illustrate the contrast between her prose and fiction–a nice touch. She sounds very interesting.

  2. I’m intrigued. Looks like a book I should check out.

  3. As a short story enthusiast, I’m glad to see you’ve enjoyed this and I’ll have to look into adding it to my own stack!

  4. Sounds like a very interesting fusing elements of poetry into stories. I’ll put it to my list!

  5. Mattviews, “hearty and meaty” is right! I agree with you about this fantastic book. Fulton’s sentences have beautiful and surprising texture, maybe a little like Ann Enright’s, and the overall arc of the connectedness is really unlike anything I’ve read. About that, Anthony Doerr wrote that “The Nightingales of Troy offers a marvelous example of how connected stories can, sometimes more effectively than a novel, evoke generations, individual histories, and the appallingly short, precious gifts that are our lives.” Other comments I’ve read have noted how this book bridges categories. Each story is a perfect example of short story form. The literary allusions and the sentences are rich with poetry. And the structure of the whole book is more like a novel, moving at a fast pace in ways that story collections have rarely done for me. Tonal range is dynamic and broad, from uproariously funny to deeply dark and unsettling.

  6. I don’t read many short stories but I do know that I do enjoy those that are linked in some way. I guess it makes me feel like it’s more of a novel or something. This one sounds very interesting so it’s going on my radar!

  7. I like to pick up short stories ‘in between’ – I never read a book of short stories from cover to cover, but dip into and out of them. I love the lingering taste…. I have not read any Fulton so I will go and find some of her stories!

  8. Greg S:
    The book reads like a novel over the span of time.

  9. CB James:
    Oh you would just love this book if you’re fan of short stories.

  10. bookchronicle:
    I’ll be very interested in your opinion on this book. 🙂

  11. Ken:
    Glad I’ve converted you to a reader! 🙂

  12. Shawn:
    I agree with your comment about the bridging forms and crossing genres. The book does read like a novel, with characters related in the lineage of a family.

  13. Iliana:
    That these stories are touching upon each other is what appeals to me. I like my reading to stretch longer than the scope of a short story. 🙂

  14. seachanges:
    I have a feeling that you’ll enjoy her stories very much. Pick it up for The Sunday Salon maybe. 🙂

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