Saturday, February 17, 2007

Dishes by Stringfellow Forbes

The most recent copy of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine (April 2007) has a very short story that is only marginally concerned with a crime, but it absolutely deserves mention here. Dishes is only about five pages long, and it is by an author I've never heard of (not a knock, just a fact) but the writing, at the sentence level and overall, is so fine, I needed to comment on it. The writing in AHMM is often very good at the sentence level, but this story by Forbes kind of requires that you read the lines out loud, it is that good. It's like reading poetry at times. I'll give a short sample:

"When you are a child, the watershed times are stronger. You have spent all your few years learning how things are supposed to be and when those certainties, so dearly settled, all change, the adjustment is hard."

These are the opening lines, and I hope you can see the elegance of the phrasing. Aside from the phrasing, there is also the assessment of childhood experience that you might not fulyl expect from a crime short story. Kind of reminds me of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.

In any event, the story concerns a move by a family from North to South in the 1950s and the difficulties in adjusting, especially for the children and mother of the family. The main trouble stems from the fact that the family is used to a more stable lifestyle than any of the neighbors seems to be able to live. This causes frictions which won't be solved except by recourse to a set of fine china dishes - you'll have to read the story to figure out how this happens.

Seek this story out. It's in bookstores now and it is certainly short enough to read while standing at the magazine rack though it is also worth the price of admission.


JJ Stickney said...

Thanks for the heads up on this story.

Anonymous said...

steven: email me at jagwood64 at for more information about the author. the author was very pleased with your review of the story. i have the author's permission to correspond with you. thanks. jww

Steven said...

Sorry I didn't even think to check for messages here. I've heard from the author.