Studies in Short Fiction Series: Tillie Olsen (Hardcover)

Tillie Olsen

By Joanne Frye

Twayne Publishers, 9780805708639, 232pp.

Publication Date: August 25, 1995



In the four pieces gathered in her 1962 collection, Tell Me a Riddle - "I Stand Here Ironing", "Hey Sailor, What Ship?" "O Yes", and the title piece - and in the 1970 story "Requa I", Olsen addresses the problem of how to interpret the experiences - or as she would call them, "life comprehensions" - of those living outside the mainstream culture in a form - literature - whose very nature has been defined by that same culture. The result, writes Joanne Frye in this ambitious study of Olsen's short fiction, is a small body of work, with many layers densely packed, that conveys with lyricism and keen perception both the grace and the hardship inherent in people's daily lives. Frye's assessment also includes a comprehensive survey of the scholarship on Olsen as it grew from a scattered, mostly positive response to her artistry in the politically conservative 1950s and early 1960s to a feminist outpouring as the women's movement took hold in the late 1960s and the 1970s. More recent studies of Olsen's work complement the earlier criticism with more direct investigations of its biographical and political underpinnings.