Every other week I draw a random card to determine what short story I will read for the Deal Me In Short Story challenge. My list of short stories is here. Jay at Bibliophilopolis hosts the challenge.
This week I drew the 2 of Spades, which corresponded to the story titled "Maria: Blue Cadillac" from a book of twelve stories about Southern women, Red Clay, Blue Cadillac. The stories are all written by Michael Malone. It shows how much I admire his writing when I purchase a book of his short stories, all very Southern in flavor, or so the reviews say. I usually avoid Southern literature.
"Marie: Blue Cadillac" by Michael Malone
I am discovering that a person's reactions to a short story is a very personal thing. (Sounds obvious but I am new to this.) In reviews I have read on this book of short stories, some reviewers pick this as the best story, others don't like it at all.
On my first read of this story, I did not care for it at all. It felt like it had no structure. It seemed more like a vignette, like a small snapshot. I had a hard time getting into it and it ended somewhat ambiguously.
I don't know if I read it too fast or I was too tired, but on a second read, I found it does have more depth. The characterizations are good; some of the descriptions are wonderful. This story seemed like two stories intertwined. Marie is a beautiful young blonde, driving to Graceland in a blue Cadillac convertible to fulfill her mother's last wish. Braxton is "a high-tech sales rep going home to Memphis for his mama's sake to eat Thanksgiving dinner." His stewardess wife has just left him for a Brazilian oilman. They end up spending a few hours together.
January Magazine featured a very long article by J. Kingston Pierce on Michael Malone's books, including an interview, in December 2002. Here is a extract from the interview related to Red Clay, Blue Cadillac.
Can you tell me what, in your mind, distinguishes Southern women from those reared in other parts of the United States?
They're like women in other parts of America, just more so. As Gloria Steinem said about Ginger Rogers: She was doing everything Fred Astaire was doing, just doing it backwards in high heels. Well, Southern women are doing and enduring what other women have to do and endure, but (at least until recently) they had to do it in heels and hats and white gloves and makeup and a sweet smile, with maybe a glass of bourbon and a cigarette to get them through the magnolia part of being a steel magnolia. The women in Red Clay, Blue Cadillac are all very strong people. Sometimes they have to pretend otherwise.
By the way, I hear that Sourcebooks had another title in mind for this collection of stories.
They wanted to call it All the Wrong Women, but I told them that you obviously don't know Southern women. Just because they murder their husbands doesn't make them bad people.
That statement -- "white gloves and makeup and a sweet smile" -- is so true and very disturbing. My feelings about that subject probably mean I would benefit from reading more books about and set in the South, not less.