Emilie Glen (1906-1995) was best known as a poet, but she started her writing career in fiction, first published in H.L. Mencken’s The American Mercury, The Prairie Schooner, and other magazines. In these nineteen short stories, Glen presents a portrait of mid-20th century America, using penetrating character portraits to show a world already nearly-gone, its customs and manners as odd to some of us as those of an Amazonian people.
A keen observer of manners and of the human drama, Emilie Glen centers sometimes on family: a high-stakes croquet game among heirs, the prize a Bermuda resort hotel; a mother and daughter competing for the same man; an Irish mother and daughter trapped in poverty in Hell's Kitchen, each wanting “the best”; and a wealthy matron in the Hamptons desperate to stop her son from marrying a Latina girl.
From a time when religion ruled the heartland, Glen writes about a town struggling with the worst preacher ever; a minister fired for his liberal values during the McCarthy era; and a woman forced to choose between becoming a minister’s wife, or being ordained herself to take over her father’s church.
Other stories are wonderful character portraits: a country woman whose life is changed when she comes into possession of the Encyclopaedia Britannica; a bored office worker with a secret hobby of purse-snatching; a businessman who would rather be a street beggar; the man determined to be top of the pecking order among the Central Park bird-watchers; a young girl who will do anything to get her first ballet shoes; a dancer locked in a fierce rivalry and obsession over a Siamese cat; a husband and wife living off the earnings of a child model; an industrialist whose entire existence is defined by ladies’ feet; and a sad-sack song-writer knocking on the doors of music publishers.
This volume also includes “From This Window,” Glen’s experiment in prose poetry, which appeared in New Directions in 1953. One story, "Cup of Gold," was edited and completed from a first-draft manuscript. Only two of the nineteen stories existed in manuscript.