This issue marks The Hudson Review’s 60th anniversary, which is an impressive feat in and of itself, especially in the impermanent world of literary journals. It features two stories by Penelope Fitzgerald who died in 2000. For readers unfamiliar with her work, she won the Booker Prize in 1973 for her novel Offshore and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1993 for The Blue Flower.
The first story, “The Mooi,” experiments with voice and dialect. “In first impression it seems to be a parody of Beckett […]. The speaker obsesses over the same few facts – a drunken tramp sitting motionless in the sun who forgets his lost bicycle,” says an essay which accompanies the story. The more satisfying “Worlds Apart” chronicles a single mother who takes in a Polish émigré as a boarder and wrestles with feelings of jealousy when a friend shows a romantic interest in him.
Also featured, is a quirky story by Penelope’s husband, Desmond Fitzgerald: “The Soldier In My Throat.” In it, a beleaguered father thinks he’s swallowed one of his children’s toy soldiers, though none of the doctors can find anything wrong with him. I won’t give the ending away, suffice to say it’s worth reading. The story reminded me of Hemingway not just in style – pared down and plain – but also in content. Like many of Hemingway’s characters, this one suffers from the unseen consequences of war.
Elizabeth Spencer’s stunning “Sightings” had me hooked by its opening sentence: “Mason Everett, a man who lived mostly happily in his own mind, hadn’t any idea why his daughter Tabitha had come to visit.” That fine first sentence not only introduces us to the two main characters, but also sets the story inexorably in motion. Spencer, winner of the Pen/Malamud Award, proves herself to be a master of the short story. Like all good short fiction, hers resonates powerfully beyond the last page and forms a lasting impression in the mind’s eye.