Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, January 27, 2012

"A Family Man" by V. S. Pritchett

"A Family Man" by V. S. Pritchett (1980, 22 pages)

"A Family Man" is the first work by V. S. Pritchett (Victor Swandon-1900 to 1997-Suffolk, UK) I have read. He is best known for his numerous short stories and he has also published essays on literary theory and criticism.   Like a lot of writers, Pritchett first got started in writing working for a newspaper, in his case The Christian Science Monitor which sent him to Ireland and Spain.   He also wrote five novels but he said it was his short stories that he loved writing and that was the part of his work that mattered to him.  

I was happy to see that a story by Pritchett  included in a work I recently acquired, The Penguin Book of Modern British Short Stories edited and introduced by Malcolm Bradbury contained a short story by V. S. Pritchett as I knew he was a highly regarded short story writer, though perhaps a bit neglected.

There are two on stage characters in "A Family Man", Bernice Foster who is having a clandestine affair with a married man, William Clark, and his wife Mrs Clark.   The affair does not seem to be a serious emotional entanglement on either end and Bernice seems to like the wicked thrill of being the other woman.   It is exciting not really knowing when her lover will show up.    Bernice asked him if his wife was beautiful and he told her yes she was very beautiful.   This only made Bernice feel all the more beautiful herself.  

One day there is a loud knock on her door.   A huge woman is at the door, so large she almost seems to fill up the complete door.   Bernice cannot tell if she is also pregnant or simply a very big woman.   The woman tells Bernice she knows what she has been doing  with her husband, she in fact paid someone to watch Bernice's apartment for her.   All of a sudden Bernice does not feel like the glamorous other woman any more and she no longer feels admiration for William as a man of sophisticated good taste.

At first Bernice does not know what to say.   It was very interesting to see how she was able to manipulate Mrs Clark into believing a lie about her relationship with her husband and distract her from the truth.

"A Family Affair" is a very intelligent story about the self deception and rationalization of things we know sre wrong .   I felt sympathy for everyone in the story except Mr. Clark.

In his introduction to the collection Malcolm Bradbury says some of the stories in the anthology  are experimental works that attempt new literary techniques and some are examples of old fashioned straightforward story telling.   "A  Family Affair" is squarely in the second of these categories.  

I would read another of his short stories, if I could find it online for free but probably would not now buy a collection of his work.  

Please share your experience with Pritchett with us.

Mel u


@parridhlantern said...

Did you know he had his own collection of British short stories, he edited The oxford British short story collection & some of the Irish contingent are Joyce & O'Conner, shame is it doesn't seem to be on Kindle.

Mel u said...

Parrish Lantern-no I did not know that-I am pretty much only buying Kindle editions-I took your suggestion at bought Best British Short Stories-good collection at a good price

@parridhlantern said...

A Collection of Classic Short Stories [Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Saki and Jack London)

The Ultimate Collection of American Short Stories (100+ Stories)

The Ultimate Collection of... Katherine Mansfield

don't know what these are like but thought you might be interested, they are all kindle.

Suko said...

Mel, this does sound very good! I can imagine Bernice shocked by the appearance and appearance of the large woman.

I'm so pleased that you continue on your short story quest! To think there was a time when you didn't consider short fiction worth your time!

Mel u said...

Parrish Lsntern-thanks for these suggestions-I will look into them

Suko-I will always be grateful to your role in getting me into short stories-and yes I did not read them for years, decades really

Mel u said...

Suko-yes the pride of the woman must have been really hurt when she saw the wife of the man she was involved with