This collection is collated and introduced by Carson's sister and is mostly short stories. However, it also includes articles, poems, brief notes about writing and a detailed outline of her most famous novel, "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/23324262).
A few pieces are more relevant if you are familiar with her subject (THiaLH, Dostoyevsky, Isak Dinesen), but most are accessible to all and the short stories are a good introduction to her distinctive, lyrical style. I also learned that Anne Frank's father asked Carson to write a play of Anne's diary, but Carson found the book too upsetting to do so.
She very quickly captures the mood and essence of characters and their situation and her musical training and her empathy with people isolated by difference and at turning points in their lives shine through. (She won a place at the Julliard, to study piano, but lost her fees on the subway, so enrolled on a creative writing course instead!)
The topics include people struggling with drink, failure, loss, poor health, changing relationships, uncertainty etc.
* In Wunderkind (also included in Ballad of the Sad Café), the trials of adolescence seem to ruin musicality
* In Like That, a tomboy resists growing up and becoming more feminine
* Court in the West Eighties is surely an inspiration for Rear Window.
* The stand out story for me is The Haunted Boy, which is about a boy's overwhelming fear that something bad has happened to his mother. It takes a lot to make me cry, but it was so believable and the unspoken (and eventually, spoken) fear so awful, that this story did.