I’ve known for a long time that I don’t love reading short stories. I have trouble enjoying them the way I do a good novel – just when I get into them, they stop, and I have to start all over again with a new cast of characters and a new story.
Yet I often try new story collections anyway. I get sucked in by the descriptions of the stories, and I think that the latest collection will be the one that converts me to short stories. And with my short attention span of late (almost 36 weeks pregnant), a collection of stories seemed like just the thing for me to read right now. So I picked up Spoiled, by Caitlin Macy, which I bought on my trip to The Strand last March.
Spoiled‘s characters are mostly well-heeled New Yorkers in their thirties dealing with issues around class, affluence, and feeling secure with themselves. In one, a young mother lends money to someone else’s nanny in a show of altruism, only to hire her later and experience jealousy when the nanny stays friends with her previous employer. In another story, a young actress and her wealthy boyfriend muddle through a dinner near her old boarding school, only to break up before the check comes (and the boyfriend has a chance to present her with the ring he’s been carrying). In another, a wife on her honeymoon in Morocco, resentful of her husband, traipses off into a Moroccan market on her own and endangers herself in the process.
I liked the premise of these stories, and Macy’s writing is breathtaking. Her use of detail to set a scene, convey the intricacies among relationships, and describe urban pressures is extremely skilled. I was consistently impressed with her writing throughout the book.
But ultimately the collection left me a little cold. As I noted above, just when I started to care about what was going on in a story, it ended. I never really got any momentum with it, and as a result it took me a long time to get through it. I wasn’t hooked. And in retrospect, the stories bled into each other. The women are all sort of the same – yes, spoiled, and pretty unappreciative of all that they have.
I’m glad I gave Spoiled a chance, but I think I’d be more interested in reading novels by Macy than other short stories. And this is a good reminder to me: stick to long-form.