Jean Stafford writes about youth in such perfect and succinct ways throughout many of these stories. My favorite of the whole bunch, and one you should check out is “Bad Characters” which starts off with the young narrator describing how she has these intense fractured and debased friendships (she’s 13 or so) in these short frenetic periods of time and then she’s quickly and thoroughly dispatched from their lives. From there, she moves on. Then, she meets her match and has a devastatingly intense (and generally funny) relationship.
This kind of crystallized and intense experience sort of shows exactly what you’re getting with these stories. There’s not an experimental story in the whole lot, and that means each one picks up in these kinds of intense ways, but there’s also not a lot of variation from this tone and style. So the stories can run into each other. There’s some variation in setting (going from Midwest to East to West) and having lots of variations in character and plot. But the voice and tone remain intact. Jean Stafford is an interesting writer because she was super famous but didn’t write all that much…something like 3-4 novel and as many story collections. Her most famous book is The Mountain Lion, which you should go read immediately. Her works is something like Katherine Anne Porter, and is somewhere in the general direction of Eudora Welty or Flannery O’Connor, but the voice is more grounded. I often liked, but was never thrilled while reading this, and in fact have been picking at it since February.