University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992
The characters in Jane McCafferty’s Director of the World and Other Stories are often distanced, lonely, or displaced from others and the events around them, yet they are almost always ready to act, to become involved with others, and to change. In “Eyes of Others,” a woman, stopping with her family at a Howard Johnson’s during a trip, becomes fascinated by the meeting of two strangers and attempts to connect with them as she has been unable to connect with her own family.
Implicit in these stories is a rootlessness that gives way to yearning and a passion for remembering. In the title story, a disturbed child, whose father has recently abandoned the family, attempts, in language reflecting her shattered sense of the world, to recapture some of their last experiences together.
These characters, and others in the collection, attempt to make sense of their broken lives and shattered thoughts. As John Wideman writes of the stories, there is “a sense of commitment to the struggle of making silent worlds speak, of forcing what is threatening or evil or destructive into some form we can see and conjure with.”
“Few books of short stories can make the reader want to flip the book over and start all over again as soon as he has finished it, and the better the stories, the truer this rule of thumb: Good stories have a delayed-detonation effect that a too-rapid reading or rereading would spoil. But in Jane McCafferty’s book, the quality is so high as to constitute an exception, and the reader needs to make sure that what he has read is as good as he thought.”
– Joseph Coates, The Chicago Tribune
“Beautifully conceived and executed, Ms. McCafferty’s stories are written in sensuous, layered prose, with recurring images suggestive of the novel one hopes she will tackle next.”
– Carol Verderese, New York Times Book Review
“With Director of the World, one has the pleasure of discovering a new author poised to explore and describe for her readers what one of the characters describes as unmanagable sadness.”
– Amherst Valley Advocate
“Winner of the 1992 Drue Heinz Prize, McCafferty presents 11 powerful, melancholic stories whose theme is deterioration–of relationships and of the mind. Her weary characters usually feel abandoned, at least figuratively, by their families, but rather than effecting change or making decisions, they simply reflect on the cumulative experiences that led to their present ennui. In the disturbing title story (also included in Best American Short Stories 1991 ), a child witnesses the division of her family after her father returns, psychologically ruined, from a war…. Reading McCafferty’s collection, one feels empathy for characters trapped by circumstance and inertia; rather than disdain them, we share the poignancy of their experiences.”
– Publishers Weekly
“Common motifs link these 11 fine stories by McCafferty, winner of the 1992 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Most of the stories are told from the viewpoint of a little girl whose single mother is revealed to be eccentric and perhaps certifiably disconnected. Throughout, Pop 40 songs define each woman’s apparent emotional range. Men aren’t so much blamed as portrayed as ill-formed and ineffectual. In the best story, “An Evocation,” the death of a childhood friend stirs memories of the Fifties that are alternately funny, bittersweet, and ugly. Recommended for most collections.”
– Ron Antonucci, The Library Journal