The Realist Short Story of the Powerful Glimpse: Chekhov to Carver. Kerry McSweeney. University of South Carolina Press, 2007. Hardback $29.95.
McGill University professor Kerry McSweeney’s The Realist Short Story of the Powerful Glimpse should be well received by Carver scholars. While the book includes chapters on the merits of realist fiction writers Anton Chekhov, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, and Flannery O’Connor, it reads, in some ways, as a book on Carver’s influences. The chapter on Chekhov distinguishes between aesthetic and interpretive meanings of Chekhov’s stories, relative to his realist presentation of experience, and McSweeny connects Carver’s idea of realist short fiction, as “something glimpsed from the corner of the eye, in passing,” to Chekhov’s idea of compactness. McSweeney’s focus on Joyce’s “stories of my childhood,” that is, the first three stories in Dubliners, uses a cultural studies approach to consider how Joyce’s urban settings require realist prose fiction to present the cultural milieu of the stories; his analysis of this “trilogy” of childhood stories will be popular with anyone using Dubliners when teaching Joyce. An excellent chapter on Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories, and “the dynamics of interrelationships among stories in a sequence,” offers a close textual reading of the Adams pieces by analyzing drafts and deleted passages of the stories; scholars who work in the area of short story sequences and composites will find this chapter of special interest. McSweeney’s discussion of Flannery O’Connor, as a writer of the realist short story in the tradition of Chekhov and Joyce, is centered on her writing both within the realm of dramatic Christian realism and the reigning principles of New Criticism. “Carver’s Dark View of Things,” the fifth and final chapter, recaps much of the Robert Miltner: Review of The Realist Short Story of the Powerful Glimpse 93
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