Sunday, July 17, 2016

"Goodnight, Beautiful Women," by Anna Noyes

The blurbs for Anna Noyes’ small book of short stories, “Goodnight, Beautiful Women” (Grove Press, 2016) are extravagant, using words and phrases such as the following: precise, fearless, breathtaking, terrible grace, enthralling, a revelation, singular, has the gift, mesmerizing, one of America’s most exciting young writers, wrenching, funny, deeply sensuous, seductive, a book to fall in love with…. I did like the stories, mainly, but I feel the blurbs are truly over the top. Yes, yes, that is what blurbs are generally like, and one should generally take them with a grain of salt. However, this seems like an extreme case. But maybe I noticed this excessiveness more because I was already somewhat uncomfortable with some of the stories. I am trying to figure out why. It can’t be because some of the characters push the boundaries a bit too much, can it? Or is it because of the many of the characters are poor, and it is uncomfortable to read about poverty, or near-poverty? But I have read, enjoyed, and praised many novels and short stories about this class status. Could it be because some of the young women are at that strange cusp between childhood and adult womanhood, and their love affairs and adventures are a little disturbing at times? But I don’t think of myself as easily disturbed, or as prudish. (And, to be clear, although some of the stories are somewhat erotic, they are not unusually so for mainstream fiction.) Am I too old for these stories? But I have always read and enjoyed stories about characters of all different ages and places in life. Now I am feeling uncomfortable about feeling uncomfortable. What has gotten under my skin about this collection? Is the issue with the stories or with me?
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