Grand Union: Stories

Penguin. Oct. 2019. 256p. ISBN 9780525558996. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780525559009.
After two decades of well-received novels (Swing Time) and essay collections (Feel Free), Smith has turned her attention to short fiction with this collection of contemporary work. Eight of the 19 pieces were previously published in The New Yorker, Granta, and the Paris Review, and all have a sharply modern feel. The selection here is uneven, however, and the skill Smith demonstrates in the strongest stories sets off the unfinished feel of several of the autofictional pieces. She is at her brilliant best when channeling voices and conjuring settings, from the Lower East Side undergarment shop where an aging performer locks horns with the owners in “Miss Adele Amidst the Corsets” to the spoiled teenage gamer saddled with a bereaved child in the dystopian “Meet the President!” to the ordinariness of a family navigating a father’s fall from grace in “Big Week.” Smith’s political sentiments are evidenced throughout, perhaps bundled most effectively in the allegories of “Two Men Arrive in a Village” and “The Canker.”
VERDICT The caliber of these pieces varies, but Smith’s keen intellect shines through them all. Both her fans and readers who enjoy smart fiction with an up-to-the-minute sensibility, will find much to like. [See Prepub Alert, 3/25/19.]
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