The Cabal and Other Stories

Ellen Gilchrist, Author Little Brown and Company $24.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-316-31491-6
Veteran fiction writer Gilchrist (Flights of Angels) is in fine form in another group of short stories that display her distinctive voice and eccentric characters. Featuring the title novella, about a social clique that ""runs the town"" of Jackson, Miss., this wry and breezy collection touches on all things Southern, from makeovers for aging belles to plantation hijinks, and reverence for ancestors and the Delta itself. When Caroline Jones, a down-on-her-luck poet, accepts a post in the English department of Millsaps College, she also is unwittingly stepping into a social morass. On her first day in town, her old friend Augustus Hailey, the most glamorous gay man in the South, drags her to the funeral of local benefactor Jean Andry Lyles. Then Jim Jaspers, psychiatrist to most of Jackson's elite, suddenly goes mad and reveals publicly the secrets and deceptions of his patients. Some characters in this novella reappear in the five short stories that follow. ""The Sanguine Blood of Men"" tells of Jones's earlier adventures in San Francisco, where she tries to sell a script to a lecherous old movie mogul. In ""Hearts of Dixie,"" Jean Lyles's typist discovers that her recently deceased employer has left 36 tempting gold Krugerrands in an office safety deposit box. There's a humorous tale about Darwinian theory and people who don't know they're funny, and a happy one about an extended family's get-together. And because no Gilchrist collection would be complete without appearances from Miss Crystal and Traceleen, the author offers a bittersweet reprise of their affectionate relationship. Throughout, there's enjoyment of casual sex, and casual talk about it--and if the talk does often threaten to bury the substance in Gilchrist's fictions, there's giddy pleasure in her characters' endearing antics. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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