Borderlines, Real and Imaginary: Elizabeth Spencer’s “The Runaways”
An Essayby Ann Beattie
Elizabeth Spencer’s “The Runaways” is, like all her writing, a wonder, with everything present and off the page contributing to our impression of her characters as people in the process of revealing as they conceal. This story eventually lets us hear a stunning admission made by Joclyn that we infer has been withheld, in part, because she wishes to conceal it from herself. While omitted, it’s obliquely alluded to—though since this is a story by Elizabeth Spencer, the surprise is only part of the story. How interesting, this self-activated jack-in-the-box that also speaks its one significant line, how significant the man who’s arrived to be its audience.