“The world Ellen Gilchrist unfolds in her vivid new story collection is rich with intimate exchanges between finely etched characters.” —The New York Times Book Review
Ellen Gilchrist proves herself once again to be a master of the intertwining tale in this collection of stories following the lives of different members of a Mississippi social elite, humorously nicknamed “The Cabal.”
In the novella that inspired the collection’s title, the most powerful person in a room is the one who has been trusted with all of its secrets. This has made psychotherapist, Jim Jaspers’, recent bizarre behavior not just worrying, but terrifying to Jackson, Mississippi’s intellectual elite and what Caroline’s best friend Augustus calls “the cabal”. The best psychotherapist for miles, Jim knows everyone’s darkest truths, and, addled after the death of his patient, Jean Lyles, he’ll tell anyone who will listen.
The secret inner lives that put an entire community on the hunt for one man in “The Cabal” are deliciously and at times humorously explored in “The Sanguine Blood of Men”, “Hearts of Dixie”, “The Survival of the Fittest”, “Bare Ruined Choirs” and “The Big Clean Up”.
With a bold cast of characters and surprises at every turn, this is an absolute must-read for fans of Southern literature. Gilchrist has uncanny ability to blend salacious plots with endearing characters.
Veteran fiction writer Gilchrist (Flights of Angels) is in fine form in another group of short stories that display her distinctive voice and eccentric characters. Featuring the title novella, about a social clique that "runs the town" of Jackson, Miss., this wry and breezy collection touches on all things Southern, from makeovers for aging belles to plantation hijinks, and reverence for ancestors and the Delta itself. When Caroline Jones, a down-on-her-luck poet, accepts a post in the English department of Millsaps College, she also is unwittingly stepping into a social morass. On her first day in town, her old friend Augustus Hailey, the most glamorous gay man in the South, drags her to the funeral of local benefactor Jean Andry Lyles. Then Jim Jaspers, psychiatrist to most of Jackson's elite, suddenly goes mad and reveals publicly the secrets and deceptions of his patients. Some characters in this novella reappear in the five short stories that follow. "The Sanguine Blood of Men" tells of Jones's earlier adventures in San Francisco, where she tries to sell a script to a lecherous old movie mogul. In "Hearts of Dixie," Jean Lyles's typist discovers that her recently deceased employer has left 36 tempting gold Krugerrands in an office safety deposit box. There's a humorous tale about Darwinian theory and people who don't know they're funny, and a happy one about an extended family's get-together. And because no Gilchrist collection would be complete without appearances from Miss Crystal and Traceleen, the author offers a bittersweet reprise of their affectionate relationship. Throughout, there's enjoyment of casual sex, and casual talk about it--and if the talk does often threaten to bury the substance in Gilchrist's fictions, there's giddy pleasure in her characters' endearing antics.