An interesting blend of short comic vignettes interspersed with two or three short stories and one borderline novella – but all with Hall’s wonderful, dry, idiosyncratic, American, droll, acerbic, languid, occasionally vivid (“…Irble Keller, five years married, danced like a chicken on a hot plate while his wife called the tunes…”) narration. It works even better if you imagine his rough, unhurried, drawling voice – this would be ideal as an audiobook with Hall reading his own words. It’s a pleasure the whole way: I suspect I could enjoy Hall talking about pretty much any subject. And it’s way more Mark Twain than P.G. Wodehouse, but either guy could turn a phrase, hey.
As for content, the longer a piece is, generally the darker it gets. Hall’s subjects hinge on marriage and family breakdown, dishonesty, manipulation and corruption, and they work in bleak settings where people are sinking under financial adversity rather than finding inner strength or value in non-material things (or even that ugly American tradition resolution being a new source of cash). Key characters *are* bastards, and not always in a light, rascally way – their magnificence is their audacity. They’re not driven particularly by malice, or frighteningly sadistic; more they are untroubled by morality – conscience seems to be a quirk they’re aware of in other people, but only a curiosity, or a tool they can use. This is the only Hall I’ve read (but on the strength of this I’ll keep my eye out for some more), and I’d be interested to see if these preoccupations are typical Hall or just something he decided to explore for this collection.