Friday, July 31, 2015

"You'll Enjoy It When You Get There," by Elizabeth Taylor

You can tell that Elizabeth Taylor is a writer I treasure; she was one of the first authors I wrote about on this blog, back on 2/13/10, less than a month after I started the blog. Because of the famous name, I titled that post “Not THAT Elizabeth Taylor.” And just last month (6/27/15) I wrote about her novel “A View of the Harbor.” Now I want to strongly recommend a collection of her short stories taken from her five earlier collections, so in effect a “best stories” collection, selected and introduced by the great British writer Margaret Drabble. The book is titled “You’ll Enjoy It When You Get There” (New York Review Books, 2014). These stories were originally published between 1954 and 1995 (although the writer lived from 1912 to 1975, dying at age 63 – too young! – of cancer). Most of the stories have to do with women’s lives, and often focus on one or two events that reveal larger truths about those lives. There is often a mournful but accepting-of-the-inevitable tone in these closely observed stories. The details are vivid and pointed, and the reader feels that yes, things must have happened just this way, for better or for worse. There are many sad women, sad relationships (especially marriages), and perceptive glimpses into those incidents that appear to be ordinary but reveal the larger lives stretching before and after those moments. Many of the stories take place indoors, and the author is excellent at describing these various interiors of various houses, flats, and rooms. Taylor is especially good at depicting disappointment. But not all is sadness; there are many moments of human connection, and of children learning and thriving despite difficult circumstances. I’d like to thank the publisher, New York Review Books, for putting together this collection and thus bringing Elizabeth Taylor’s work back to our attention (in the case of those who already knew of her) and newly to the attention of a younger generation; NYRB has published dozens, perhaps hundreds, or NYRB “Classics,” a wonderful way of preserving these works and extending their readership into the future.
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