Love Among the Greats

This collection of short stories is a slim volume – less than 150 pages – but in each of Edith Pearlman’s thirteen stories in Love Among the Greats, you’ll find a revelation – a subtle stripping away to show a character’s true feelings.  If you blink, you will miss it.

The introductory short story, titled “Jigsaw Table,” recounts summers at a run-down seaside cottage, with the family bonding over the austerity of the place, playing games and solving puzzles on an old oaken table.  When an interloper injects himself into the assembly of one of the jigsaw puzzles, the father’s final comment confirms his proprietary feelings not only for the table but also for his family.   Later, in the story titled “Toyfolk,”  an ironic friendship develops between the manager of a toy store chain and the maker of handcrafted toys – to expose a wife’s opinion toward her children, and maybe her entire married life.

The title story, “Love Among the Greats,” positioned in the middle of the book, actually begins a novella that follows a midwestern Jewish woman and her black pediatrician husband through three stories – from courtship in the library among the greats of literature, to married life, and finally to his return to Africa.

Some of the stories are humorous – the travel writer who writes about exotic sites from his bed; the Torah study group who really are getting together to play poker…but most of the stories have a serious message, and all have a literary quality in the prose.  The plots are stingy but the language beautiful.

For this woman, now staring at him with such assurance, beauty must be an old habit.

Edith Pearlman won the Spokane prize for short fiction with Love Among the Greats, but I discovered her when I read Roxanna Robinson’s New York Times review of Pearlman’s latest collection –  Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories.

Why in the world had I never heard of Edith Pearlman? And why, if you hadn’t, hadn’t you? It certainly isn’t the fault of her writing, which is intelligent, perceptive, funny and quite beautiful…

Glad I discovered her.  Read one or more of her stories when you need a short thoughtful pause.