A.S. Byatt may be the big-name literary celebrity in the Triangle this week, but it’s a homegrown talent that’s really cause for celebration. Algonquin Books has recently published Jill McCorkle‘s first short story collection in eight years, Going Away Shoes, and she’s once again proven herself a master of the form. I’ve long been a follower and a fan of McCorkle’s work, and while her novels are undoubtedly impressive, I’ll admit that I take the most joy out of her richly textured, densely packed shorter work — it’s simply a marvel how much life she’s able to pack into such a short amount of space. Even the briefest of the stories here, “View-master” (barely five pages), marks the intersection of several complete lives, and another of my favorites, “Intervention,” seamlessly weaves past and present — the weight of a lifetime of relationships — into the story of a single momentous evening, one that marks both a turning point and a reaffirmation. That story is also one of the most highly lauded in this collection, having appeared in Ploughshares before being selected both for the Best American Short Stories anthology and for New Stories from the South, and a second story, “Magic Words,” has recently been selected for the upcoming Best American Short Stories.
After reading “Intervention” myself a couple of years back, I had the opportunity to encounter it again when McCorkle read it aloud one evening — and it was just as fascinating that second go-around, maybe even more so since I knew where the story was going and could focus on the small moves that she made to get us there, the layering of information, the small asides that seemed extraneous on the first read but ultimately integral, indispensable. Let that be encouragement for others to check out the new collection and to catch one of the author’s upcoming events: Thursday, October 15, at The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines and again on Saturday, October 17, at McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village.