“Yesterday afternoon the six o’clock bus ran over Miss Bobbit.”So begins the story “Children on Their Birthdays,” and I dare any reader to put it down after an opening sentence like that.
Without reservation, this is one of the finest collections of short stories I have read. The designation “Master of the Short Story” seems overused, but Capote indeed qualifies for a piece of the title. Regrettably, he published only twenty of them during his long career, mostly for magazines between the years 1943 and 1951.
When Truman was a boy of seven, both of his parents deserted him to further their own “careers.” They dumped him on a houseful of elderly cousins in rural Alabama, one of whom, sixty-something Miss Sook Faulk, became his closest (and only) friend. Three moving stories evolved from this loving relationship: “A Christmas Memory,” “The Thanksgiving Visitor” and “One Christmas.”
Capote definitely has a Southern voice, especially in his early stories, but he also has a voice for the denizens of New York. The one thing that stays constant is the writing itself: crystal clear prose that conveys emotion with an economy of words and a rhythm that effortlessly carries the reader to story’s end. The endings, too, are unambiguous—poignant, wry, sometimes mildly shocking or amusing—thus leaving the reader with a satisfying understanding of the story:
“Good luck, Miss [name withheld]. Thanks for the peanuts.”
If you are a lover of short stories, do not pass over this collection.