The finest and most substantial story here is 'The Run of Yourself'. One could say is has the richness and breadth of a novel, but that would be to slight the short-story form, of which Mr. Ford has repeatedly proved himself a master ... However understated and oblique, Sorry for Your Trouble—which is what Irish people say to the bereaved at a funeral—is both a coherent work of art and a subtle and convincing portrait of contemporary American life among the moneyed middle class. None of the main characters has to worry about money, which highlights the emotional malaise that underlies their lives and their frequent and almost absent-minded couplings and uncouplings. In the background are wars, financial crises, natural vicissitudes. This is America, and Richard Ford is its chronicler. In these superbly wrought tales he catches, with exquisite precision...the irresistible melancholy that is the mark of American life.
... contrasts in scale—individual and historical, intimate and epic—occur throughout the novels of Shirley Hazzard, whose writing, like her name, tends to begin demurely enough, all weak tea and lace curtains, but grows quietly comic, and then abruptly calamitous. Her characters know poetry by heart, believe in honor, and speak in epigrams. Their biographies are revised, drastically, by plane crashes and shipwrecks, fatal battles, and grave illnesses. They travel widely and suffer emotional devastation ... The sentences of shocking wisdom appear freakishly often. The intelligence is relentless. Hazzardians will read Collected Stories with impatient pleasure, reminded from the first page that, once they are through, they can start rereading the novels.
There’s a gamble in using ambivalence as the launching pad for fiction, and a couple of these stories drift and bog down ... as much existential as it is temperamental, reflecting protagonists grappling to relinquish the sense of an overarching narrative in their lives. These are stories about the death of stories ... Ford has a gift for nimble interior monologues and a superb ear for the varieties and vagaries of human speech. His prose can strike a Hemingwayesque cadence ... At 76, Ford is of the last generation of writers to have grown up directly under the Papa-and-Scott dispensation, and it’s gratifying to hear his sentences pay homage ... Acutely described settings, pitch-perfect dialogue, inner lives vividly evoked, complex protagonists brought toward difficult recognitions: There’s a kind of narrative, often dismissed as the 'well-crafted, writing-class story,' that deals in muted epiphanies and trains its gaze inward, to pangs and misgivings. Some readers may no longer admire this kind of story. But I still love it. What is craft, after all, but a good thing well made?