Review by Kate Jones
There’s a real, raw honesty about the stories in Curtis Sittenfeld’s new collection You Think It, I’ll Say It. So much so, that I had to question on more than one occasion whether it was a fictional collection: some of the stories read like creative non-fiction.
In short stories, I think it is often the way a tiny space gives a brief encounter, leaving us as readers to debate what may or may not have happened to those characters after the closing words. As a creative writing tutor once put it, the novel is like a whole film; a short story is a scene of that film. Yet, I can only assume this is a writing style which Sittenfeld appreciates, as she uses it more than once. In ‘Vox Clamantis in Deserto’ she switches to a large chunk of information about the main characters, filling in the blanks of what happens off the pages of the story presented, which feels clunky and unnecessary.
That said, the collection is accomplished, delivered from an author more used to producing bestselling novels such as American Wife and Eligible, and earned Sittenfeld a place on The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award 2018 shortlist.
‘The World Has Many Butterflies’ and ‘Gender Studies’ both contain elements of infidelity, and the latter holds political references, as does the remarkably accomplished first story ‘The Nominee’.
Set during Hilary Clinton’s campaign for the White House, it is narrated from the first person point of view of Hilary herself, considering a female journalist whom she has enjoyed sparring with over the course of her political career. She shows a surprising fondness for the woman, though she notes somewhat wryly that she often questions her in a sexist way; a way she claims she would never question a male candidate. The story ends with a note of disappointment, because Hilary believes fully that she will become the next president, whereas we are all too familiar with the reality of that ending.
I found the protagonists of these stories interesting choices, and as with all good fiction, they were not always likeable, but certainly relatable.
Sittenfeld is a young author with an impressive stack of bestselling novels to her name, and following the reading of this collection, I, for one, shall be seeking more of her writing out.
You Think It, I’ll Say It (2018) is published by Doubleday.
Kate Jones is a freelance writer, yoga lover and NHS worker from the North of England. Her essays, reviews and flash fiction have appeared in many varied places, including Spelk, Feminartsy and The Short Story.