An NYRB Classics Original
Nearly forty years after her death, Elizabeth Taylor is only beginning to gain the recognition due to her as one of the finest English writers of the postwar period, notwithstanding the praise she has received from writers as different as Sarah Waters and Hilary Mantel. Inheriting Ivy Compton-Burnett’s uncanny sensitivity to the terrifying undercurrents that swirl beneath the apparent calm of respectable family life while showing a deep sympathy of her own for human loneliness, Taylor depicted dislocation with the unflinching presence of mind of Graham Greene. For Taylor, however, unlike Greene, dislocation began not in distant climes but right at home. It is in the living room, playroom, and bedroom that Taylor stages her unforgettable dramas of alienation and impossible desire.
In 2012, NYRB Classics reissued two of Taylor’s finest novels, and The New York Times Book Review hailed the reemergence of this wonderful neglected author. Now, for the first time in more than a quarter century, Taylor’s stories, in many ways the heart of her achievement, will be available to readers in the United States, presented in a revelatory new selection by Margaret Drabble. In Taylor’s extensive body of short fiction, the bulk of which was originally taken by the legendary editor and writer William Maxwell for The New Yorker, her range of feeling and the power of her writing are evident as nowhere else.
The short story [is] a form in which Taylor, a gimlet-eyed miniaturist, fully exploited her talents.
—Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic
There is a deceptive smoothness in her tone, or tone of voice, as in that of Evelyn Waugh; not a far-fetched comparison, for in the work of both writers the funny and the appalling lie side by side in close amity.
Taylor’s stories, like her novels, are also filled with interesting and original ideas about life that are presented with almost no emphasis, ideas that other novelists would practically underscore and print in bold.
In all the stories there is a peculiarly satisfying mixture of wit and generosity. Their human depth is such that they can be read again and again.
Her stories remain with one, indelibly, as though they had been some turning point in one’s own experience.