William Melvin Kelley (1937-2017), an African-American writer, published his first novel A Different Drummer at the age of twenty-four to great acclaim. Two years later came the short story collection, Dancers on the Shore.
Written in crystal clear prose, these stories cover the complications of family life and examine race relations in America. Each story is simply told and compelling, giving them a classic, universal feel. A young woman falls pregnant and must turn to her family for help; a man contemplates marrying a woman he's not sure he loves; a drunken white man accosts a coloured man and presumes too much; a long forgotten musician experiences a comeback; a young man meets his intellectual hero, only to find disappointment.
Kelley's stories are perfect nuggets of emotional truth, perfectly capturing the human condition: wrong choices, the humiliations of life, awkward family relationships and the many ways that love can go wrong. A highly enjoyable collection that resonates deeply.
Dancers on the Shore, by William Melvin Kelley. Published by Riverrun. $22.99
Review by Chris Saliba
North Melbourne Books