SPOILED by Caitlin Macy

I’ve known for a long time that I don’t love reading short stories. I have trouble enjoying them the way I do a good novel – just when I get into them, they stop, and I have to start all over again with a new cast of characters and a new story.


Yet I often try new story collections anyway. I get sucked in by the descriptions of the stories, and I think that the latest collection will be the one that converts me to short stories. And with my short attention span of late (almost 36 weeks pregnant), a collection of stories seemed like just the thing for me to read right now. So I picked up Spoiled, by Caitlin Macy, which I bought on my trip to The Strand last March.

Spoiled‘s characters are mostly well-heeled New Yorkers in their thirties dealing with issues around class, affluence, and feeling secure with themselves. In one, a young mother lends money to someone else’s nanny in a show of altruism, only to hire her later and experience jealousy when the nanny stays friends with her previous employer. In another story, a young actress and her wealthy boyfriend muddle through a dinner near her old boarding school, only to break up before the check comes (and the boyfriend has a chance to present her with the ring he’s been carrying). In another, a wife on her honeymoon in Morocco, resentful of her husband, traipses off into a Moroccan market on her own and endangers herself in the process.

I liked the premise of these stories, and Macy’s writing is breathtaking. Her use of detail to set a scene, convey the intricacies among relationships, and describe urban pressures is extremely skilled. I was consistently impressed with her writing throughout the book.

But ultimately the collection left me a little cold. As I noted above, just when I started to care about what was going on in a story, it ended. I never really got any momentum with it, and as a result it took me a long time to get through it. I wasn’t hooked. And in retrospect, the stories bled into each other. The women are all sort of the same – yes, spoiled, and pretty unappreciative of all that they have.

I’m glad I gave Spoiled a chance, but I think I’d be more interested in reading novels by Macy than other short stories. And this is a good reminder to me: stick to long-form.

5 Comments

  • May 14, 2012 - 8:25 am | Permalink

    I used to feel that way about short stories but have come to appreciate them more here lately.

    • gayle
      May 14, 2012 - 10:50 am | Permalink

      Any that you recommend in particular?

  • Sarah
    May 14, 2012 - 9:13 am | Permalink

    I know what you mean about short stories. I felt the same way until I read Jhumpa Lahiri’s two collections, as well as “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders” by Daniyal Mueenuddin . I loved all three of those collections. But in general, I shy away from short stories. Nevertheless, your review intrigues me, and I think i would like “Spoiled.”

    • gayle
      May 14, 2012 - 10:51 am | Permalink

      Ah, you’re right about those three collections (although now that I think of it, I still haven’t read Interpreter of Maladies). Unaccustomed Earth was great, and I read IOR,OW on your recommendation and liked it a lot too. You’re welcome to borrow Spoiled!

  • Sarah
    May 14, 2012 - 11:00 am | Permalink

    Thanks — I’d love to! I think “Interpreters of Maladies” would be a great hospital book for you….

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