cover image Mid-Air: Two Novellas

Mid-Air: Two Novellas

Victoria Shorr. Norton, $26.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-393-88210-0

Shorr proves herself a literary mimic of the first order with these two pitch-perfect stories. The first, “Great Uncle Edward” is an Auchincloss-like examination of old money New York in the late 1970s. The unnamed narrator holds a dinner party for her husband’s 93-year-old great-uncle, Edward. Dinner conversation ranges over the family’s history, and names of family acquaintances are dropped, from George Washington and Toussaint Louverture to Edith “Pussy” Wharton and Ved Mehta. Along the way, there are hints that their WASPy way of life will soon be obsolete. In the second, “Cleveland Auto Wrecking,” Sam White is an Eastern European immigrant who arrives at 13 at Ellis Island at the turn of the 20th century and ends up living in Youngstown, Ohio, where he marries, fathers three sons, and, after years of struggle, does well in the scrap metal business. Sam begins parlaying his scrap metal success into Southern California real estate ventures, which ultimately make the Whites’ fortune. But when one son dates a woman above his class, it causes friction inside the family. The author cleverly juxtaposes how one aspect of American society falls as another rises, and both novellas have a novellike density of detail and depth of characterization. Together, they offer rich rewards. (May)