cover image A Careless Widow and Other Stories

A Careless Widow and Other Stories

V. S. Pritchett. Random House (NY), $16.95 (164pp) ISBN 978-0-394-57612-1

A master of the short story form, British author Pritchett has been writing for so many years that it is small wonder that his work is regarded as classic. Without a wasted word, these six craftily constructed tales deflate pomposity, reveal greed, poke fun, tickle the funny bone, trail red herrings. The delight they inspire in the reader lies in the sum of their detail. In the title story, women's hairstylist Lionel Frazier is annoyed while on holiday to be recognized by the importunate widow who is his neighbor at home (and not, thank God, a client). Frazier, who thinks of women in terms of ``heads,'' finds himself alternately drawn and repelled by intimacy with Mrs. Morris. Here as in other stories, the droll plot is enhanced by the accumulating tidbits of Pritchett's subtle observations. When retired carpet salesman Mr. Andrews takes ``A Trip to the Seaside,'' it is ostensibly to get a ``sniff of sea air.'' Recently widowed and looking for a wife, he makes an intrusive visit to the home of his former secretary, where he is shaken to discover that ``a rival widower had stolen a march on him.'' Every word counts with Pritchett, and more times than not, what is going on is not what it seems. (Sept.)