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

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"Change of Face" by Elspeth Davie, 1965

(born March 1918 - died November 1995) - Kilmarnock, Scotland 

Elspeth Davie, née Dryer, was born in Kilmarnock in 1918. Her father was a Scottish minister; her mother was Canadian. Although she spent much of her childhood in England, she returned to Scotland to study at Edinburgh University and Art College. Rather than complete her degree, she trained as a teacher and taught art in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It was there that she met her husband, the philosopher George Elder Davie, whom she married in 1944.

She started writing stories for literature journals such as the Transatlantic Review, Cornhill and London Magazine, and her first novel,Providings, was published in 1965. Several other novels followed, but it was for her short stories that Davie was best known. Her anthologies included The SparkThe High Tide Talker, and The Night of Funny Hats.

In 1977 Elspie Davie won a Scottish Arts Council Award, and in the following year she won the Katherine Mansfield Prize. Her final collection, Death of a Doctor, was published in 1992. Her stories typically had ordinary settings into which extraordinary characters and events took place.

Elspeth Davie died in Edinburgh in 1995.

Yesterday I posted on a story by Elspeth Davie, "The Choirmaster".  I was really amazed by this story, both by the style and the theme.  I have now read my second work by her "Change of Face", centering on a man who has a street stand where he draws in crayon portraits for  a pound. (About 70 pesos)
The story is so full of meaning and marvel I do not wish to summarize it.  It is a strange and deep story about how people see themselves, about a lonely old man whose portrait the artist cannot paint in crayons.  It is about chance encounters, the nature of art.  It is almost a work of magic.  

I have access to one more of her short stories, upon reading it I will probably begin reading her most famous collection of short stories, The Man Who Wanted to Smell Books and other Stories.  

Please share your experience with Ms. Davie with us.

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