I have to admit that I concur with Caleb Ross’ review of Twenty Stories. Ms. Fouquet’s tales grow on you, line-by-line, page-by-page, slowly creeping under the skin, as you dig deeper into the collection. But perhaps that is the point. What else would you expect from a bunch of tales set in low and lazy New Orleans? If you’ve walked the streets, you know that nothing is rushed. Even redemption and remorse. So by the time you hit “Another Initiation” on page 6, then stumble upon “The Painters” on page 15, before catching “Boy in Waiting” on page 36, and then finally reaching “Blue No More” on page 43, you’re hip deep in the sordid lives of the New Orleans locals.
I would call these tales postcards rather than traditional stories. Most are snapshots of lives not quite lived but misdirected. There are the not-so-usual missteps and miscalculations. Such as the main character’s longing for a tough-loving lounge singer in “The Moon is New, But Love is Old.” Or the painter who misjudges his landlord’s appreciation of art in “The Painters.” But in all these tales, Fouquet presents characters, people you already know. If you’ve ever spent time in the sweaty watering holes of the South, you recognize them as locals. They ring true of the landscape. Maybe that’s why their trip-ups make for good reading.