I don’t have a strong affiliation for or with Peter Taylor, the way I do with several other Southern writers (Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston etc). Instead, he was one of those figures talked about in the periphery of a few literature classes I took in college that were labeled as Southern Fiction or Southern Literature, as well as author classes. But yet, we never read any of his work. He is kind of exalted in a lot of ways, and moderately famous–having won the Pulitizer Prize for a late novel of his. But mostly he’s know for his short stories. He’s about a generation past Faulkner, younger than Welty but older than the newer crop or writers born in the 1930s and beyond, and so I think he’s a kind of middle child in that respect.
His fiction, at least as this collection suggests it, is also moderate. Focusing on little moments and life histories of his characters, and cataloging the kinds of small injustices that Southern American life tends to allow to happen, from a very middle-class and middle-brow perspective.
I don’t find most of the stories to be particularly of interest to me, and in fact only two did I actually like a whole lot. But that doesn’t determine their worth, only how they held my interest. Those two — “First Heat”, which was the accounting of a state senator’s night after a disastrous vote as he waits for his wife to meet him at a hotel and “Miss Leonora When Last Seen” about a retired teacher and land-owner on the lam from a small town’s attempts to buy out her property to build their first integrated school (by force of law) and destroy a local black community in the process — are good, but don’t elevate the whole for me.