Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Surprisingly, “Black Tickets” has humor as well as pathos, the main source of humor being the first-person point of view. The narrator’s style reflects his ambivalent feelings and lack of responsibility: It combines a jaunty, reminiscing tone with street talk and rich metaphors. His ability to reel off memorable phrases—probably unusual among drug dealers—suggests that he might have been a poet. Occasionally this style is overdone, however, as when the narrator describes the many varieties of blackness that flow from Jamaica or his equally numerous “sick vomits in bathrooms of restaurants, theaters, gas stations, train depots.” Most “vomits” are “sick” and it seems unnecessary to specify the places, as well as a description of the “head on the bowl,” the “intimate stains of countless patrons,” and so forth.

Possibly these colorful details are symbolic because the story is heavily laden with symbols that underline the sleazy lives of the characters—from the Obelisk Theater (all the world’s a porno stage, so to speak) to the rats to the radiating meanings of “black tickets.” By the time Jamaica’s braids are mentioned, the reader might be too saturated with symbols to care. The overdone symbols, like the overdone style, show the talented young author’s tendency to go to excess (“Black Tickets” is the title story of her first major collection). After reading this story, however, few people will want to rush out to buy black tickets.

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The techniques pointed out most frequently by critics include the book's dramatic monologues, its vignettes and its staccato prose style full...

(The entire section is 371 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

As several critics point out, Phillips is centrally concerned in giving voice to the inarticulate outcasts of society, whether they happen to...

(The entire section is 283 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Jean Toomer's Cane (1923), a collection of stories which alternates longer developed fictions with poems and feverish vignettes, is...

(The entire section is 269 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In Fast Lanes, (short stories, 1987) as in her earlier fiction, Phillips depicts the dislocations in contemporary American life. She...

(The entire section is 106 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Disheroon-Green, Suzanne. “Jayne Anne Phillips.” In The History of Southern Women’s Literature, edited by Carolyn Perry and Mary Louise Weaks. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2002.

Godden, Richard. “No End to the Work?: Jayne Anne Phillips and the Exquisite Corpse of Southern Labor.” Journal of American Studies 36 (August, 2002): 249-279.

Jarvis, Brian. “How Dirty Is Jayne Anne Phillips?” Yearbook of English Studies 31 (2001): 192-204.

Phillips, Jayne Anne. “The Writer as Outlaw.” In The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work, edited by Marie Arana. New York: PublicAffairs, 2003.

Rhodes, Kate. “Interview with Jayne Anne Phillips.” Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 31 (July/August, 2002): 517-520.

Robertson, Sarah. “Dislocations: Retracing the Erased in Jayne Anne Phillips’ Shelter.” Mississippi Quarterly: The Journal of Southern Cultures 57 (Spring, 2004): 289-311.