On the other hand, if you can view fiction like a work of art, such as a painting, where much is insinuated, left to the reader, boundaries are lost, the story is infinite, and yet the impact comes from a single moment, or a short series of moments.... then the short story form is your path into fictional artistry.
Bliss and Other Stories is a collection of 14 stories dealing with domestic moments in marriage or parenthood, as well as social situations between strangers.
Katherine Mansfield is an artist. Chekov is considered by many as the best writer of short stories and Mansfield is said to be an English translation of Chekovian form. She was also admired by Virginia Woolf. High praise indeed.
Her style is not to tell a story, but rather to reveal human psychology and emotion - ordinary vulnerability, frailty, flaws. And she does this best, I think, when writing about, not people, but the space between them. An area I'm consistently pulled into. The charged emotions and thoughts that pass between couples or family members embroiled in a shared history. Or the clumsy story-making between strangers. The misunderstandings, assumptions, disappointments, restraints, and quiet desperations.
She hardly dared to look into the cold mirror–but she did look, and it gave her back a woman, radiant, with smiling, trembling lips, with big, dark eyes and an air of listening, waiting for something . . . divine to happen . . . that she knew must happen . . . infallibly.
Poetic reflection and touches of stream-of-consciousness paint an essence of the internal conflicts within characters. For me, her most successful attempts are when writing of a woman's emotional and domestic life. The turmoils, yearnings, conflicting needs, obligations, hopes, and emotional ties to others.
Her artistry is between the lines. Mansfield devastates me not with drama but with subtlety. It's the mundanity of emotions that wrings out my heart. If you prefer stories more about events rather the fluid inner workings of characters, then Mansfield will likely not be for you.
It had never been so plain to her as it was as this moment. There were all her feelings for him, sharp and defined, one as true as the other. And there was this other, this hatred, just as real as the rest. She could have done her feelings up in little packets and given them to Stanley. She longed to hand him that last one, for a surprise. She could see his eyes as he opened that. . . .
Bliss is the story that probably caught me most unaware, while Prelude is the best stylistically and most poignant.
My collections are yellowed with over 20 years onwership. Reading them now as an older woman, mother, and wife, I have a deeper appreciation for the infinite emotional aches of loving and being loved. And Mansfield is the close friend who doesn't apply a bandage, but rather says simply - I understand completely.
read the collection online