Men Play, Women Win
Bittersweet short stories from the jazz age and after
F.B. Hotz was one of the Netherlands’ greatest short-story writers. After his late literary debut in the mid-seventies, he quickly garnered acclaim for his meticulous and polished style.
The stories reflect details of his own life: a childhood overshadowed by his parents’ separation, the German occupation and his struggle to support himself as a jazz musician in the 1950s. The theme of strained relationships between the sexes runs throughout the book.
‘Women Win’, in which a gig at a provincial school dance degenerates into open warfare between teenagers and bigcity musicians, is full of comical moments, but is ultimately downbeat, with the protagonists recognizing their that lifestyle is unsustainable. Conversely, ‘The Travelling Salesmen’, about the main character’s alienation from his father, is full of wry and witty lines.
Although they convey the atmosphere of a particular time and place, these stories are timeless. Essentially, Hotz is a classic artist for whom form is paramount, constantly in search of ‘the magic that can give an ordinary word in a calm sentence the power of a stranglehold.’