Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The stories in Stephanie Vaughn’s Sweet Talk all have young women at their centers and are presented in the realistic mode. In the stories that have Gemma as their central character, the narrative is in the first person, as it is also in “Other Women,” whose central character is named Angelina. Third-person narration is used in “The Architecture of California” and “Snow Angel,” which are centered on characters named Megan and Marguerite. The stories are straightforward narratives, although some of Gemma’s are clearly written from a later perspective. Devices such as flashbacks, fantasies, dreams, or time shifts are not used. The overall impression given by most of the stories is of emotional moments seen from a distance; the emotions are real and affecting, but with an important exception, they are not immediate.

The first and last stories in the volume, “Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog” and “Dog Heaven,” are reminiscences of youth told from the perspective of adulthood; both concern a time when Gemma was twelve years old and the family lived on an Army post near Niagara Falls, New York. The other Gemma stories—“My Mother Breathing Light,” “Kid MacArthur,” and “The Battle of Fallen Timbers”—are primarily concerned with her relationships with other members of her family. The stories “Sweet Talk” and “We’re on TV in the Universe” have as narrators unnamed young women who might be Gemma. These relationships are drawn with a subtlety which is the most impressive aspect of Vaughn’s writing. Especially in “Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog” and “Kid MacArthur,” Gemma’s resentment...

(The entire section is 672 words.)