When he was about five years old some kids asked Clay why his mother had called him that. He did, in fact, wonder a great deal, particularly while picking the bark off trees, or stripping a flower down to its core of mystery. Patrick White strips a man right down to its core of mystery like that flower.
Or maybe it's the times the stories are set in that make it hard to comprehend completely. The cover of the book says that with these stories the author "bring his immense understanding of the urges which lie just beneath the facade of ordinary human relationships, especially those between men and women...". Dead Roses A story about defining moments in the life of a girl turning woman. Observations about several relationships (with mother, father, friends of the family, which are kind of "high societish"). The inviting couple has a sickly, insecure and somewhat naive wife and bird-noise recording husband with a not-so-good-looking secretary. The invited couple is thinking condescendingly about their hosts, but don't say so. Over tea, the old man tells about his live in various places. Has a wife that retreats from society, doesn't like but accepts his way of life, which includes lots of traveling and having mistresses. It turns out that not only the tea glasses break over time, but also his wife: She commits suicide by jumping off a high place. The old man then married the servant of his former wife. The bachelor leaves, having been captivated by the old man's story. He starts to work as an official at customs office and meets a girl that becomes his wife (a bit like his mother, some sort of a simpleton herself). (couple takes her in but cannot tolerate her, send to old peoples home, where she meets acquantaince whom she terrorized before - told in different episodes). Late in the story the son opens a couple of the letters he kept unopened in a box. The woman who wasn't allowed to keep cats Two couples meet in Greece, because the women were friends as children. Her intellectual husband is "tired" all the time, looks sloppy - might be caused by his wife's cat craziness. Down by the dump The protagonists of this story mainly come from two families. There's young William, from a "white trash family" and Meg, whose aunt has just died; both kids are about 14 years old. The white trash family scavenges dumps (for what is not quite clear, but they do enjoy a beer while doing it), and they decide to go to different one for a change.
The nicely brief Willy-Wagtails by Moonlight has great tension and a great twist at the end but the other tales in this collection fall short of the standard it and the two other previously-mentioned stories reach.
Kingsley Amis's characters, his depictions of the life and routines of the inn owner, were great fun and the ghost story was more than eerie, it was an interesting rumination on death, god and the possibility of an afterlife.
The protagonist, Anthea Scudmore, is well developed and the story is the closest to White's novel format. Patrick White fans should find most of the stories an enjoyable read.
His fiction freely employs shifting narrative vantages and the stream of consciousness technique.