For those unfamiliar with Stafford’s work, Joyce Carol Oates nicely sums up her oeuvre as follows:
Of Stafford's three well-received novels only Boston Adventure (1944), her first, sold well—it was in fact a best seller, reaching 400,000 copies; and this despite the novel's literary manner, its resolutely old-fashioned language that advances the narrative by slow grudging degrees. The Mountain Lion (1947) and The Catherine Wheel (1952), by contrast, both possess the sharpness of dramatic focus and the economy of style of superior short stories, and may have sold poorly because of their very excellence. Though one would not want to stigmatize Stafford by suggesting that she is a “writer's writer,” these novels, particularly The Mountain Lion—a subtly and brilliantly realized tragedy of adolescence, told in a remarkably graceful and seemingly artless voice—remain highly regarded by other writers and substantiated early claims for Stafford's gifts. Awards and honors came to her in plenty, including a number of O. Henry prizes, inclusion in The Best American Short Stories and, in 1970, the Pulitzer Prize for The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford.
The discussion of "In the Zoo" will get underway as soon as someone is bold enough to post the first post on the story over at A Curious Singularity. If you’re not yet a member of the short story discussion group and you would like to join, please e-mail me. Of course, anyone can contribute through the comments sections of the posts without officially joining the group.