June 2014 favorites


June 2014

The June stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Venus, Cupid, Folly And Time’ by Peter Taylor
  2. ‘Blackberry Winter’ by Robert Penn Warren
  3. ‘Babylon Revisited’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. ‘Upon The Sweeping Flood’ by Joyce Carol Oates
  5. ‘Good Country People’ by Flannery O’Connor
  6. ‘My Old Man’ by Ernest Hemingway
  7. ‘I’m A Fool’ by Sherwood Anderson
  8. ‘Sonny’s Blues’ by James Baldwin
  9. ‘Only The Dead Know Brooklyn’ by Thomas Wolfe
  10. ‘Double Birthday’ by Willa Cather
  11. ‘The View From The Balcony’ by Wallace Stegner
  12. ‘The Magic Barrel’ by Bernard Malamud
  13. ‘No Place For You, My Love’ by Eudora Welty
  14. ‘The Schreuderspitze’ by Mark Helprin
  15. ‘The Hartleys’ by John Cheever
  16. ‘O City Of Broken Dreams’ by John Cheever
  17. ‘A Day In The Open’ by Jane Bowles
  18. ‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson
  19. ‘In The Zoo’ by Jean Stafford
  20. ‘The Lost Phoebe’ by Theodore Dreiser
  21. ‘Welcome To The Monkey House’ by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
  22. ‘How Beautiful With Shoes’ by Wilbur Daniel Steele
  23. ‘The Little Wife’ by William March
  24. ‘A Distant Episode’ by Paul Bowles
  25. ‘The Faithful Wife’ by Morley Callaghan
  26. ‘The Golden Honeymoon’ by Ring Lardner
  27. ‘Resurrection Of A Life’ by William Saroyan
  28. ‘The State Of Grace’ by Harold Brodkey
  29. ‘A Telephone Call’ by Dorothy Parker
  30. ‘The Survivors’ by Elsie Singmaster

‘The View From The Balcony’ by Wallace Stegner


The View From The Balcony by Wallace Stegner, 1948

The magic trick:

The premise itself – men and women transitioning from war combat to everyday life as young adults

Stegner has many interesting things to say here about the post-war landscape, the way America’s new confidence brought forth by the victory greatly affected power dynamics in the world and among the different generations at home. It’s remarkable that he had such insights – many of which were proven all the more accurate during the ensuing decades – just three years after the war’s end.

But the most memorable point made here, at least to me, is Stegner’s juxtaposition of boys and girls thrust into the torturing stress of war at the age of 18 and then dealing with the, in some cases, equally harrowing stress of establishing themselves back home as married careerists in their early and mid-20s.

He sets up this contrast with the story’s premise and setting: a college in Indiana where a group of young veterans are living together and completing their degrees. Stegner uses the thoughts of a young English veteran, Lucy Graham, to forward many of these ideas. The characters come off as equal parts hero, villain, strong-willed adult, and impudent child. And that’s quite the magic trick on Stegner’s part.

The selection:

Then it struck her as odd, the life they all lived: this sheltered, protected present tipping ever so slightly toward the assured future. After what they had been, navigator and bombardier, Signal Corps major, artillery captain, Navy lieutenant and yeoman and signalman first class, herself a WAAF and two or three of the other wives WACS or WAVES – after being these things it was almost comical of them to be so seriously and deeply involved in becoming psychologists, professors, pharmacists, historians.