Quick Bright Things is greater than the sum of its brilliant parts. The stories stand alone. Each of the twenty-one stories has individually appeared in prestigious journals, magazines, and anthologies. But this collection can also be read as a sequence of episodes from the lives of Peterson and Christine Kingsley and their daughters Jennifer and Phoebe. In the title story, the last in the collection, Peterson Kingsley has begged off a trip with his wife and daughters to visit his in-laws. While on a solitary run along a Wisconsin country road, he reflects on the defining moments with his family. He recalls Lysander’s lament from A Midsummer-Night’s Dream: “So quick bright things come to confusion.” With a poet’s lyricism, Wallace weaves the various moments into one man’s life experience and makes that experience universal. These stories always return to the question of whether tolerance, good temper, and sympathy can prevail in the face of destructive forces—whether ‘things,’ despite their confusion, can somehow remain ‘quick’ and ‘bright.’
Wallace, R. Quick Bright Things: Stories. Midlist, 2000.