Essays and Criticism
Elizabeth McCracken Overview
Elizabeth McCracken is a novelist and short story writer whose work has been cited for deep and endearing characters and plots built on the vicissitudes of loving human relationships. Writing for World and I, Jill E. Rendelstei claimed that McCracken ‘‘is a storyteller to the core, always giving us complete access to her realm of fantasy. But it is the vivid life within McCracken, her intensity as a person, and her love that show through in her writing, making it so distinctive and alive.’’ New York reviewer Daniel Mendelsohn observed in McCracken’s writing ‘‘a unity of potent elements: beauty of expression; a rather shy, almost offhand way with painful emotional insights; a truly wacky sense of humor; and a kind of disarming, old-fashioned charm.’’ In the New York Times Book Review, Francine Prose praised McCracken for her ‘‘sense of play, a nervy willingness to imagine a wide range of characters and situations, estimable powers of empathy and the enjoyment of watching a talented writer beginning to come into her own.’’
McCracken’s first published book was a collection of nine short stories titled Here’s Your Hat What’s Your Hurry, which was praised by reviewers both for its eccentric characters and its elegant writing style. In the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Francine Prose wrote, ‘‘McCracken’s attention to detail and to the truths of the human heart, her ear for the rhythms of speech, her wry, straightforward and commonsensical literary voice ground even the most fantastic tales in solid . . . reality.’’
Uniting many of the stories in Here’s Your Hat What’s Your Hurry are the sometimes bizarre efforts characters make to insinuate themselves into the fabric of life. The opening tale of the collection, for example, tells the story of a young woman who turns her body into a ‘‘love letter’’ for Tiny, her husband who works as a tattoo artist. The collection’s title story features ‘‘Aunt Helen,’’ who arrives at the home of a Washington family for an extended visit— until it is discovered that she is an imposter who spends her time visiting one ‘‘relative’’ after another. In ‘‘What We Know about the Lost Aztec Children,’’ an armless woman who lives in a suburb of Cleveland brings home an old friend from the time she spent as a sideshow performer in the circus. And in ‘‘Mercedes Kane,’’ an Iowa woman gives a home to an eccentric woman in the belief that the woman is a famous 1940s child prodigy. Other stories feature a man who has finished serving a prison term for murdering his wife;...
(The entire section is 1078 words.)