Narcissa, and Other Fables (Magill's Literary Annual 1984)
Narcissa and Other Fables is Louis Auchincloss’ eighth volume of short stories. As he has done before, Auchincloss demonstrates his mastery of all the elements of his craft: characterization, articulation of manners and mores, manipulation of plot (including ironic twists and turns), and handling of point of view. Auchincloss’ stories are tidy, rendering with fine precision a people who consider themselves leaders, on the cutting edge of American society.
The volume is composed of twelve short stories, four of which appeared previously in slick magazines, and twelve very brief sketches in the manner of the “character,” a literary form that flourished in France and England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, some of which also were published first in a popular magazine. Auchincloss’ stories are, for the most part, short, easy to read, and have a quick payoff in terms of the revelation of meaning. This is not to suggest that his stories operate without subtlety, but rather to make the point that there is just enough subtlety in the majority of the stories for the reader to feel an immediate satisfaction in having understood what is not too carefully concealed.
The story “Equitable Awards” is a case in point. As the story opens, Gwendolen Burrill—to whose point of view the third-person narration is...
(The entire section is 2334 words.)
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