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When she tried to think of it, she saw a blur, a company of laughing faces, the faces among balloons in a Mardi Gras film, the crowd of bright-skinned, bright-eyed faces like glazed fruits, reaching for a bottle of Coca-Cola on a roadside hoarding.

Natalie Gordimer

Since I am (was) attempting to write 52 bad stories, I also thought it would be good to read 52 good stories. I am reading through The Art of the Short Story by Dana Gioia and R. S. Gwynn. If you are looking for an anthology of classic short stories that will make you swoon or want to through the book out the window in turn, this is your anthology. While I am mostly going through the book in order, I should note that I did read some out of order for Black History Month in February and my April Short Story a day posts for the April A to Z Blog Challenge.

A Company of Laughing Faces by Natalie Gordimer

Natalie Gordimer perfectly captures the experience of being just on the edge of the crowd. Not weird enough to stand out and be recognized for weirdness and bullied. Not “in” enough to be looked for when missing. To the crowd, Kathy Hack, the main character, was one more girl hanging out at the beach on a summer holiday. As a sheltered only child, her one goal for the holiday was to learn what it was like to be a young person. She was on the edge of the lively group of young vacationers, getting more and more comfortable with the routine of beach days and dancing nights. She even manages to put off a would-be date rape. But when a tragedy occurs, it is the one event that allows Kathy to experience truth and beauty.

Gordimer is a prolific and much-awarded South African writer who has been successful with both short stories and novels. She writes that the short story has more flexibility and more room for the writer to experiment, but ultimately, stories and novels are about the human experience, and if that is not captured, it is a failure.