Saratoga, Hot

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The title story vividly captures the atmosphere of the Saratoga Springs racetrack, the world of the fabulously rich horse owners and those drawn to them because of the love of horses or money. In “Survival Techniques,” a retired Manhattan storekeeper becomes increasingly obsessed by the street people on his block until he becomes one of them. Two of the stories in the collection mock the world of pop culture; one concerns a hairdresser of rock stars, the other a cocaine-sniffing show-business couple.

“The Library” is an intriguing story of a charismatic Englishwoman, loved by three American friends. The story is told by one of them, as he goes to identify her body at the New York City morgue. “The Tenth Child,” the most original piece in the collection, is a bizarre fantasy, inspired by an ad for a Park Avenue triplex with closet space for a thousand dresses and room for a party of one hundred children. In “Gargantua,” a convalescing woman recalls her mother’s illness years ago and her own first experience of feeling grown-up, while in “The Passenger,” a middle-aged writer traveling on a night train from Chicago to New York remembers other train rides she has taken and meditates on life and death.

Although Hortense Calisher called the pieces included in this collection “little novels,” only a few go beyond the scope of a short story. Their range, however, is remarkable. Whether they are meditative or satirical in nature, or whether they present a psychological portrait or a social commentary, the stories engage the reader by their wealth of detail, intricacy of language, and the depth of the author’s insight into the human condition.

Calisher is the author of many novels, including THE NEW YORKERS, ON KEEPING WOMEN, MYSTERIES OF MOTION, and THE BOBBY-SOXER in addition to several collections of short stories, for which she has been particularly acclaimed. The present collection confirms her reputation as a short story writer of formidable powers.