Elizabeth Spencer’s Light in the Piazza was published three years before I was born, more than six decades ago. She will be here February 03 with Starting Over, a sparkling collection of nine short stories, the genre in which the Carrollton, Mississippi native “is a rare, true master,” according to Richard Ford. She has published five previous story collections along with her nine novels. The stories of Starting Over, which she began to write not long after her husband’s passing ten years ago, delve into the shuttered mysteries of human relations, and they are brilliant and fresh.— Richard
Winner of the Rea Award for Short Fiction
Winner of the Mississippi Institute of Arts & Letters’ Prize for Fiction
Finalist for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award
"A rare and true master" (Richard Ford), the celebrated author of The Light in the Piazza returns with these spellbinding stories.
Since her remarkable debut in 1948, Elizabeth Spencer has transfixed readers with her uncanny ability to portray how “twisted, chafing, inescapable, and life-supporting” (Alice Munro) the ties are that bind families and marriages. Here, with nine new stories, Spencer maps “the murky territory between our obligations and our desires” (David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times), revealing the deep emotional fault lines and unseen fractures that lie just beneath the veneer of normal family life. Compared to Cheever and Hawthorne, Spencer affirms her stature as one of the outstanding living writers of the American South.
About the Author
Winner of the PEN/Malamud prize and five O. Henry awards, Elizabeth Spencer (1921—2019) was the author of nine novels, six short story collections, a memoir, and a play.
There seems to be nothing this extraordinary writer can’t do… Spencer recounts the details and doings of her characters in such spare, unfussy, almost conversational prose that she sounds at first like nothing so much as a shrewd family storyteller…. Spencer’s great gift is her ability to take ordinariness and turn it inside out, to find focus in a muddle…Dazzling…a work of genius.
— Malcolm Jones
Spencer [is] an elegant and subtle writer.… Like Chekhov, the moments of most acute misery—those achingly common things that nearly kill us all—are offstage.… There are nine stories here, all wonderful, subtle and complex—which makes the cumulative effect all the more alarming.
— Ann Beattie
Spencer’s stories dance with the illusion of happiness but swell with unspoken sadness. Humor bubbles to the surface in the most unexpected ways …but that humor, too, is fragile….Starting Over is a veritable Whitman’s sampler of bite-sized stories stitched together by their shared stillness.
— Michelle Moriarity Witt
She is, as she ever was, one of America’s best short story writers, with her invention and craft undimmed. Next time they bring out Spencer’s Selected Fiction they will have to wedge in at least two more masterpieces from Starting Over.
— Wilton Barnhardt
Spencer’s first work of fiction, a novel titled Fire in the Morning, was published in 1948, and, as affirmed by her new collection of short fiction, these many years have not dulled the sharpness of her prose nor inched her into out-of-date perceptions of the world. Grand dame of southern letters that Spencer is, she remains a vital, passionate, contemporary-issues writer. [These stories] show the control and ease of a master; each story has superb qualities of artistry and social relevance.
— Brad Hooper
Spencer has a special gift for the nuances in 'ordinary' human relationships; she creates suspense via anticipation more than through interactions themselves…. Spencer’s strength lies in highlighting human truths in captured moments.
Spencer’s elegant stories are more about what doesn’t happen than what does…. Quiet and spare prose ferries tiny but explosive clues which point to powerful insights lurking between the lines…. In Spencer’s world, the emotional debt ceiling is always on the rise.