I’m not sure which came first: the photography or the writing. What I do know is that Kristin Fouquet’s love of photography infuses her storytelling. Her tales have that feel of old photographs you discover in a thrift store bin — you don’t know these people, but you can see their lives boiled down into that moment. It’s because of this that the stories in Rampart & Toulouse and her previous collection Twenty Stories never feel over-told. They unfold simply and capture that poignant moment for the character. You don’t need to know the rest. Everything is in that snapshot.
“Becoming Obsolete” and “Paris is the Pretty One” — two of the short stories in this collection that also includes a novella — both capture that quality in Fouquet’s writing. The former is a tale of refrigerators and New Orleans social hierarchy, the latter is a story of two sisters and a horror-show trip to Paris. For the characters in each, there is a line of demarcation, a point of no return that comes to them not as a sudden surprise but a moment they can only accept with resignation. The author doesn’t force them upon the reader, but with some confidence, lets us see what ultimately becomes obvious to the character, even if they are powerless to change that fateful day.
In all these stories, there are wonderful scenes that Fouquet conjures up, never forced, suddenly unraveling in the midst of a story. A woman standing in her bedroom window, watching a bottle of wine in she left in the courtyard, waiting for it’s intended recipient to appear. A Soprano, dressed in a robe and towel, waving her arms while practicing an aria in the privacy of her Paris apartment, unaware of the spectator watching her from across the street. A procession of ad hoc mourners singing “Sweet Sue Just You” as they march from the St. Louis cemetery in New Orleans, honoring a woman they never knew.
Like a perfect photograph, Fouquet’s stories leave one feeling as if they’ve only caught a glimpse of these lives, but that’s enough to tell the tale, and to know the fates.