Picks and Pans Review: The Old Forest and Other Stories
by Peter Taylor
The title story of this solid collection concerns a 1937 incident in Memphis involving a group of young women, intelligent and energetic, who are working hard to make a place for themselves. The narrator and his friends sometimes date these women, but they never marry them. On a spontaneous fling with one of the girls, the narrator has a car accident. To punish the young man, whom she loves, the girl flees into the forest, disappearing for several days while the police look for her. The narrator's fiancée, who knows the lost girl, takes matters into her hands, and her reasons for helping to find her rival reveal a lot about the social structure of the time and place. Half of these 14 stories first appeared in the New Yorker, but they are more conventional than the fragments that often serve as short fiction in that magazine. Taylor does for the wealthy of the mid-South what John P. Marquand did for Boston, John O'Hara for Pottsville, Louis Auchincloss for New York City and John Cheever for Westchester County. While the prose is fussier than Cheever's, Taylor exhibits a chatty style that suits his wealthy characters perfectly. These stories are old-fashioned, reflective and rewarding. (Dial, $16.95)
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