This is an eclectic collection of short stories. It was published in 1947 and re-released in 1955. It’s now out of print, so I had to interlibrary loan it. And, now I am actually regretful that it is out of print. Because I’d totally tell anyone that was a lover of short stories to run out and get it. It is available on Amazon
as of the writing of this post. If you do love short stories, I recommend getting this book. Or check your library, it might be on the shelves there.
This is listed by Stephen King in his Top Ten. He was the only one to do so. He wrote a short blurb in Top Ten about it, stating that he found it by chance but absolutely loved it.
The collection includes some of the classic short stories that you may remember having read or at least heard of over the years, The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs, A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner, The Lady or the Tiger, The Devil and Daniel Webster by Stephen Vincent Benet, The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. it also includes stories by “greats” that might have been known in the late 40s but aren’t as well known now (making them new to me), like Paul’s Case by Willa Cather, The Red-Headed League by Arthur Conan Doyle, The Rich Boy by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Killers by Ernest Hemingway, The Gioconda Smile by Aldous Huxley.
The foreword from the collection states: “The compilers of most collections of short stories quite naturally seek to present material which, if not actually new, is at least likely to be unfamiliar to the reader. Frequently, some old favorites are included, but as yet no anthology, as far as we know, has been limited to the tried and true….Yet it seems obviously desirable, particularly for those who have not large libraries, to have in a single book as many as possible of the established classics in the field.”
They end the foreword with “Here, we believe, is a treasury of great storytelling–a reference collection of the best of a favorite form of literature–a book which we hope will prove to be a source of recaptured delight for many and a new and rewarding adventure for many more.”
The short story is often proclaimed as “dying” or “dead”, and there is a significantly limited venue for it. However, short story collections continue to be published, and short story collections continue to be sold. There are also the well-known places to seek out short stories (The New Yorker for example) and the lesser known places (email Dave, he’d be more than happy to point you out to quite a few of them if you’re looking for a place to read some). There are the new places, like the ones being released by Joe Hill and Stephen King exclusively for Kindle (at least initially).
A well-written short story is a testament to an author’s writing ability, in my opinion. Many short story collections that come about nowadays have stories involving already established characters. They’re created for fans of a particular series. I almost see that as a cheat of the short story form. If you’ve already established a character over a series of books, to use them seems to defy the art of short stories. A short story has to be economical with details. But, it also has to create the scene, and flesh out at least one or two characters into a real person.
A lot of these stories have twist endings. A character finding something out at the very end that is a revelation, or the story revealing something to the reader at the very last moment. I love these types of stories (The Gift of the Magi for example).
I definitely will be buying a copy of this book, as some of the stories I want to re-read. It also introduced me to some authors I’ve heard about over the years but have never read. W. Somerset Maugham is an author I’ve toyed with reading in the past. After reading his short story, Rain, I am definitely going to read more of him.
Sorry for all the gushing. It was just a joy to read this.
And for any aspiring or actualized writers reading this, I leave you with:
“You learn by writing short stories. Keep writing short stories. The money’s in novels, but writing short stories keeps your writing lean and pointed.
– Larry Niven”