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Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story

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Twenty contemporary authors introduce twenty sterling examples of the short story from the pages of The Paris Review. What does it take to write a great short story? In Object Lessons, twenty contemporary masters of the genre answer that question, sharing favorite stories from the pages of The Paris Review. Over the course of the last half century, the Review has launched Twenty contemporary authors introduce twenty sterling examples of the short story from the pages of The Paris Review. What does it take to write a great short story? In Object Lessons, twenty contemporary masters of the genre answer that question, sharing favorite stories from the pages of The Paris Review. Over the course of the last half century, the Review has launched hundreds of careers while publishing some of the most inventive and best-loved stories of our time. This anthology---the first of its kind---is more than a treasury: it is an indispensable resource for writers, students, and anyone else who wants to understand fiction from a writer’s point of view. "Some chose classics. Some chose stories that were new even to us. Our hope is that this collection will be useful to young writers, and to others interested in literary technique. Most of all, it is intended for readers who are not (or are no longer) in the habit of reading short stories. We hope these object lessons will remind them how varied the form can be, how vital it remains, and how much pleasure it can give."---from the Editors’ Note WITH SELECTIONS BYDaniel Alarcón · Donald Barthelme · Ann Beattie · David Bezmozgis · Jorge Luis Borges · Jane Bowles · Ethan Canin · Raymond Carver · Evan S. Connell · Bernard Cooper · Guy Davenport · Lydia Davis · Dave Eggers · Jeffrey Eugenides · Mary Gaitskill · Thomas Glynn · Aleksandar Hemon · Amy Hempel · Mary-Beth Hughes · Denis Johnson · Jonathan Lethem · Sam Lipsyte · Ben Marcus · David Means · Leonard Michaels · Steven Millhauser · Lorrie Moore · Craig Nova · Daniel Orozco · Mary Robison · Norman Rush · James Salter · Mona Simpson · Ali Smith · Wells Tower · Dallas Wiebe · Joy Williams


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Twenty contemporary authors introduce twenty sterling examples of the short story from the pages of The Paris Review. What does it take to write a great short story? In Object Lessons, twenty contemporary masters of the genre answer that question, sharing favorite stories from the pages of The Paris Review. Over the course of the last half century, the Review has launched Twenty contemporary authors introduce twenty sterling examples of the short story from the pages of The Paris Review. What does it take to write a great short story? In Object Lessons, twenty contemporary masters of the genre answer that question, sharing favorite stories from the pages of The Paris Review. Over the course of the last half century, the Review has launched hundreds of careers while publishing some of the most inventive and best-loved stories of our time. This anthology---the first of its kind---is more than a treasury: it is an indispensable resource for writers, students, and anyone else who wants to understand fiction from a writer’s point of view. "Some chose classics. Some chose stories that were new even to us. Our hope is that this collection will be useful to young writers, and to others interested in literary technique. Most of all, it is intended for readers who are not (or are no longer) in the habit of reading short stories. We hope these object lessons will remind them how varied the form can be, how vital it remains, and how much pleasure it can give."---from the Editors’ Note WITH SELECTIONS BYDaniel Alarcón · Donald Barthelme · Ann Beattie · David Bezmozgis · Jorge Luis Borges · Jane Bowles · Ethan Canin · Raymond Carver · Evan S. Connell · Bernard Cooper · Guy Davenport · Lydia Davis · Dave Eggers · Jeffrey Eugenides · Mary Gaitskill · Thomas Glynn · Aleksandar Hemon · Amy Hempel · Mary-Beth Hughes · Denis Johnson · Jonathan Lethem · Sam Lipsyte · Ben Marcus · David Means · Leonard Michaels · Steven Millhauser · Lorrie Moore · Craig Nova · Daniel Orozco · Mary Robison · Norman Rush · James Salter · Mona Simpson · Ali Smith · Wells Tower · Dallas Wiebe · Joy Williams

30 review for Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story

  1. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    Why do I even bother pretending to try to read short story anthologies? Almost four months after starting the first story I have conquered this three hundred and fifty page book! Look at me go! And now do I write a review for it? The premise of this book is that one accomplished writer introduces a story that appeared in the pages of The Paris Review from another accomplished writer. Some of the introductions are interesting. Some of them are unremarkable. A couple of them add to the reading exper Why do I even bother pretending to try to read short story anthologies? Almost four months after starting the first story I have conquered this three hundred and fifty page book! Look at me go! And now do I write a review for it? The premise of this book is that one accomplished writer introduces a story that appeared in the pages of The Paris Review from another accomplished writer. Some of the introductions are interesting. Some of them are unremarkable. A couple of them add to the reading experience and a couple sound like the blah blah blah you can imagine a teacher blah blah blahing to an uninterested class. I enjoyed a couple of the writerly pieces of advice a couple of the introductions had. I also enjoyed the Ali Smith introduction to the Lydia Davis story, I wonder how much more I would enjoy other Davis stories if I knew what she was riffing off of, or maybe even when she was and when she was just playing literary games (is there a difference?) A handful of the stories I had already read before. One of the surprising things about the collection was that the Borges story was on the weaker end of the spectrum. To get the negative out of the way, I also didn't love, or sometimes even like very much the stories by Joy Williams, Denis Johnson and Thomas Glynn. I was fairly ambivalent about the Donald Barthelme, Borges, and Steven Millhauser stories. They all have stories I love. Maybe none of the stories I loved appeared in the pages of The Paris Review though. My second favorite Raymond Carver story is in the collection, so that was like a gimmie on the plus side for the book. The Craig Nova and Leonard Michaels stories were good, but they didn't knock my socks off. I'm only mentioning them because along with the Joy Williams story, which I just couldn't get into, they led off the batting order of this collection. And like a good baseball lineup, two of the three got some base hits (the lead-off batter maybe uncharacteristically struck-out, some people I respect on goodreads love Joy Williams), so the runners were on the corners when Jane Bowles stepped up to bat in the clean up spot. Emmy Moore's Journal was amazing! To keep pushing the baseball metaphor that probably shouldn't have been started, a home run. This was so unexpected. I'd never paid any attention to Jane Bowles before, I never even thought to read her. For some reason when I think of her husband I think boredom, even though I've never read him, and I have no reason to think his books would be boring. But forget about him. Jane Bowles's story is amazing, and if her collection of stories wasn't a slightly over-priced print-on-demand edition I would have picked it up the day I read this story. So good. Made me so happy to have noticed this little collection for free at BEA, and for going against my good sense at starting the collection, knowing that my attention span would forget about it after only a couple of stories. And after the enthusiasm of that story I was inspired to read the James Salter story, which was good, quality-wise what I would expect from one of those author's-writers that I've never read, but thematically a little different than what I imagined. And then my enthusiasm dwindled, and I gave the book a rest for a month or so. My second foray into the collection didn't go so well. The Denis Johnson story would have left me completely cold if it weren't for a couple of interesting points Jeffery Eugenides made about the story in the introduction. The Mary-Beth Hughes story I can barely remember. I think it was probably just fine, but apparently not very memorable. Then came the Borges story. I got bored with the story, which is impressive since it's typically short. I was reading it on the subway, the subway ride came to an end and I closed the book and put it away again for a couple of weeks. A couple of weeks pass. I read the Borges story. I hate myself for not liking the story. I contemplate donating all my books to the salvation army and only watching the Jersey Shore. I'm not worthy of reading any longer. Then I realize it's ok to not like a Borges story. So I read on. I read a story by Bernard Cooper on the subway going to work. I like it, not love. But it was good. I've never read him before. I'm happy with it. The subway stalls. There is track-work. It's a Saturday afternoon between 49th Street and Times Square on the N line. Do I need to point out how many tourists are on the train. An English bloke demands answers of people, like everyone but him was told why the subway is just sitting here. A band of women, probably from a state where people like me only know when we fly over them, keep getting up to look at the subway map next to me. I want to tell them nothing has changed since the last time. Thankfully there is no mariachi band in the car. I read the Thomas Glynn story, and realize that two great things I hate about New York just came together, like an annoyance Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. A quirky 50's/60's New York Story in the book, and an stalled train packed with all sorts of people who give me the ol'howling fantods. In the best of situations I don't think I would have liked this story, but reading the first half of the story on a stalled and crowded train didn't help at all. On break that day I read the Mary Robison story. A great story. Sam Lipsyte's introduction helped me enjoy it even more by pointing out a couple of things that she does with language that was quite interesting but which I would have been too stupid to catch on my own. I don't remember when I read the Donald Barthelme story. I do remember feeling like I do after reading a lot of things by writers of his generation and inclinations. If I don't love it I usually can't shake the feeling of being lost or thinking what was the point of that? Then there was the Raymond Carver story. I've read this story probably like twenty times. I've read it more than the story I like better than this one, because I don't want that one to lose any potency. I still enjoyed this story greatly. Guess what happens next? Yep, I put down the book for a month or so. Maybe more. The next story was a long one. Ethan Canin's The Palace Thief. It's fifty pages. And I've never read Ethan Canin, but he's another of those writers whose books I see at work all the time, but they have never done anything to interest me. I was sort of dreading reading it. But I was wrong. I didn't love the story. It's not my all time favorite story, but it was a clean and crisp narrative and an enjoyable delight. It was one of the high points of yesterday's stomach virus. With high hopes I went into Steven Millhauser story that followed, but as I said above, I didn't love it. It had typical Millhauser themes but with none of the magic that his stories normally have (the magic was present in the narrative, but normally he conveys that sense of childish wonder mixed with nostalgic melancholy better). Guy Davenport's story was another pleasant surprise. I've never really heard of him at all. I'm sure there is a book of his at work and I will go, oh right him, when I see it, but I went into this story with no preconceived notions. While not written in the same style as Borges necessarily, this is what the Borges story should have been. A good mixture of philosophy and character. Good stuff. Norman Rush turned out to be another enjoyable find in this collection. I never paid his books any attention. In my head him and that Guterson guy who wrote Cedars falling on something or other are the same person, maybe because they were each sort of over-ordered constantly when I first started at B&N, and they both seemed like writers that middle aged men who have run out of Civil War history books to read might pick up for a plane ride to see the kids. This is another writers I might have to read more of after seeing them here. The Lydia Davis story I had enjoyed, but didn't get the first time I read it. This time I saw what she was going, and seeing the strings pulled behind the curtain added to my enjoyment. The Evan S. Connell, story about his eponymous Mrs. Bridges, made me think about digging out my copy of that novel and finally trying to read it. There was a subversive normalcy to the 1950's Cheever-esque world in this short vignettes. Mrs. Bridges also reminded me quite a bit of one of my grandmothers, which kind of made me think of some of her 'ticks' in a different way than I ever did before. The collection then came to and end with a Dallas Wiebe (yeah, I never heard of him either) story. This story was quite fun. Not a great story, but fun. Something that is forgotten to be had in literary fiction sometimes. A story of a writer who literally gives body parts in order to get published and win prestigious awards. Look at that, I reviewed in some way just about every story here!* *Ok, I didn't really say anything about the first three stories. The Joy Williams story made my eyes glaze over, the same way that sometimes stories that take place on boats do. I don't know why this happened. I just couldn't get into the story, I felt bored, I was distracted. Even though I was on the subway (a comfortably populated one) I kept stop reading to look around, something I don't normally do. Maybe I'll give it another try sometime. The Craig Nova and Leonard Michaels stories were both good, and what I would have expected from them. The Leonard Michaels story wasn't as good as some other stories of his I've read, but it was decent. The Craig Nova I remember liking, but I don't remember much about it, so it probably wasn't that remarkable.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Stuart

    I've had a subscription to The Paris Review for longer than I've been married. Back when I got my first few issues, my beard was barely there and sometimes I'd let the fuzz grow out for a few weeks. Now I shave every day because two thirds of my beard is white. Why have I subscribed to this magazine for close to 40 years? There's one reason: its former and original editor, George Plimpton. He had unique taste for an editor of a literary magazine. He tended to stay away from the pretentious and p I've had a subscription to The Paris Review for longer than I've been married. Back when I got my first few issues, my beard was barely there and sometimes I'd let the fuzz grow out for a few weeks. Now I shave every day because two thirds of my beard is white. Why have I subscribed to this magazine for close to 40 years? There's one reason: its former and original editor, George Plimpton. He had unique taste for an editor of a literary magazine. He tended to stay away from the pretentious and precious and he wasn't afraid to include a story or poem that would make you laugh out loud. As a writer and reader, I'm of the "please don't tell me your tsuris because I have enough of my own" school. There certainly were stories and poems in George Plimpton's Paris Review that were full of self pity. But I could easily avoid them. Almost every issue had something memorable. For over 40 years, Plimpton ruled over The Paris Review with a deft touch. This volume is essentially an homage to what undoubtedly is George Plimpton's most significant and enduring creation. In Object Lessons, some well known writers are each invited to pick one story from The Paris Review's past. I've read almost all the stories contained here before. It was fun to read quite a few of them again. My one quibble is that the writers have tended to dwell on the more depressing stories The Paris Review has published. With one exception, they've forgotten the humor. I don't get that bias. For many years, there was actually an annual humor prize associated with the magazine that came with a significant chunk of cash. Early and wonderful stories of TC Boyle, David Foster Wallace, and Rick Moody published in The Paris Review aren't found in this volume. These are omissions that aren't fatal, certainly, and there's much to admire in the stories chosen. Mr. Plimpton has been gone for almost a decade, and predictably The Paris Review floundered more than a bit for several years after he died. But it has gotten back most of its mojo as of late. It's trying to be a little hipper and edgier and unfortunately, its content is also a tad more depressing on average. But every once in a while, a story with verve, humor and intelligence will appear. When I read those stories, I know The Paris Review still serves a unique and valuable purpose. If you're a fan of the contemporary short story, this volume will likely please you with the caveat that most of the voices are strongly male. Also, if you're the type of reader who sticks to bestsellers, I'd stay away; these stories almost all avoid the tropes that mainstream readers find necessary and comforting. The short introductions to the stories are hit and miss things. For my money, I'd just skip them and stick to the stories themselves.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sunil

    The idea sounds appealing. The Paris Review corrals a few contemporary giants of literary fiction into a single collection to talk about "the art of the short story" a la the collection's tagline. Only two authors both comment on and appear within the collection; otherwise, it's a fairly heterogeneous mix of the fairly canonical (Borges, Carver, Barthelme) to the comparatively obscure (Salter, Hughes, etc.). Each story is preceded by a short introduction penned by one of these "masters of the ge The idea sounds appealing. The Paris Review corrals a few contemporary giants of literary fiction into a single collection to talk about "the art of the short story" a la the collection's tagline. Only two authors both comment on and appear within the collection; otherwise, it's a fairly heterogeneous mix of the fairly canonical (Borges, Carver, Barthelme) to the comparatively obscure (Salter, Hughes, etc.). Each story is preceded by a short introduction penned by one of these "masters of the genre" -a title granted in the Editor's Note- wherein each briefly discusses the inner workings of the story concerned and explains why the story works, whether on a merely personal or more universal level. This never happens. Instead, we get some glowing reviews of the authors at large, and some mutual back-patting, but rarely do these introductions ever deign to comment with any specificity on the story at hand. The only real exception is Dave Eggers's introduction to "Bangkok" by James Salter. Eggers appropriately exacts the little details which, combined, serve to propel this vaguely sinister story. But this is the only time any level-headed critical analysis happens; lofty praise abounds.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    I was a Lit major, so my tastes are not everyone's. I like a lot of fairly unknown dead authors (not that these authors are all dead!). It seems to me that there was a certain kind of writing popular in the 50's and 60's which people fancied as having a psychological bent. 50 some years later, these "woo-woo" subtexts, despite their attempts at subtlety just seem very outdated, as does the practice of inserting lots of dialogue to sustain some flow of tension and to make you wonder what the heck I was a Lit major, so my tastes are not everyone's. I like a lot of fairly unknown dead authors (not that these authors are all dead!). It seems to me that there was a certain kind of writing popular in the 50's and 60's which people fancied as having a psychological bent. 50 some years later, these "woo-woo" subtexts, despite their attempts at subtlety just seem very outdated, as does the practice of inserting lots of dialogue to sustain some flow of tension and to make you wonder what the heck is going on. But when you find out, you find out....not a darn thing is going on. Maybe someone died, maybe they are on drugs all the time. Haha on you, the reader. Very clever. My favorite authors of the moment are Hilary Mantel and Alice Munro. I know that not everyone is going to measure up to that standard, but these stories are just..boring, poorly told, and with characters that maybe existed in someones mind in a cultural milieu long past,whose passing I do not regret.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)

    There are twenty stories in this collection. I rated each story individually, added up the ratings for all the stories, divided by twenty, and got 2.92. So three stars it is for the lot. "The Palace Thief" by Ethan Canin is the only five-star story in the collection. There is more depth and gravitas and food for discussion in its 50 pages than there is in most full-length novels. This piece was made into a film called The Emperor's Club, which is superb and stays surprisingly true to the origina There are twenty stories in this collection. I rated each story individually, added up the ratings for all the stories, divided by twenty, and got 2.92. So three stars it is for the lot. "The Palace Thief" by Ethan Canin is the only five-star story in the collection. There is more depth and gravitas and food for discussion in its 50 pages than there is in most full-length novels. This piece was made into a film called The Emperor's Club, which is superb and stays surprisingly true to the original story. Kevin Kline is a god among actors. The introductions to the stories have spoilers, or at least things I didn't want to be told until after I'd read the stories. After half a dozen stories, I took to reading the story first, then reading the intro.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Owain Lewis

    As you'd expect from an anthology, it's a mixed bag. It's quite a doomy collection, with little in the way of the humorous or farcical. It's in the nature of anthologies that they are always going to feel uneven to everyone but the compiler. When you put a load of different styles together, no matter how thematically linked they are, you're alway going to have ones that shine and others you flick through after the first page. I liked the stories by the people I already liked - Denis Johnson, Cra As you'd expect from an anthology, it's a mixed bag. It's quite a doomy collection, with little in the way of the humorous or farcical. It's in the nature of anthologies that they are always going to feel uneven to everyone but the compiler. When you put a load of different styles together, no matter how thematically linked they are, you're alway going to have ones that shine and others you flick through after the first page. I liked the stories by the people I already liked - Denis Johnson, Craig Nova, Lydia Davis, Borges. When you read an anthology you always have the hope of new discoveries, which were thin on the ground for me. The new name I took away from this, and what made it worth it, was James Salter. I'll definitely be checking the library shelves for his work and probs buying the collected stories.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jess Shulman

    This book advertises itself as a must-read for the student of the short story form. The concept is that each story was selected by a modern writer, and each writer also provides an introduction about that story. All the stories were previously published in the Paris Review. I love this concept (like the New Yorker Fiction Podcast); the idea of hearing what other writers think is good about a story is very appealing, and while I mostly picked up the book for the stories themselves, I was really in This book advertises itself as a must-read for the student of the short story form. The concept is that each story was selected by a modern writer, and each writer also provides an introduction about that story. All the stories were previously published in the Paris Review. I love this concept (like the New Yorker Fiction Podcast); the idea of hearing what other writers think is good about a story is very appealing, and while I mostly picked up the book for the stories themselves, I was really interested in hearing the intros. Unfortunately, they are all over the map. There is absolutely no consistency in focus, style, format...or anything at all. It feels as though the editors gave the writers absolutely no guidance beyond "write an intro." My favourite of the intros is by Dave Eggers, introducing "Bangkok" by James Salter. Eggers actually examines the story and lays out a list of reasons why it exemplifies great writing. I felt prepared to read the story and enjoyed reading it with his guidance in my head, watching for the things he pointed out. But many of the intros are ridiculously overwritten, show-offy bits of prose, praise for the author in general instead of the story, or vague "I love this story" proclamations without reasons or discussion. The intro to the last story (Joy Williams introducing Night Flight to Stockholm by Dallas Wiebe) should start with "spoiler alert" - it practically recaps the entire story! So, the writers-introducing-other-writers'-stories part of this anthology is a miss, for me. The stories don't fit together as an anthology either, but I was okay with that. I think, in fact, that this collection actually is a great read for somebody studying the short story, because it illustrates the vast diversity of the form. I can't say I like all of these stories (this is my second attempt to read Jorge Luis Borges [the first time as prep for a trip to Buenos Aires] and I just don't enjoy him; I couldn't even get through Guy Davenport's Dinner at the Bank of England). But there are some that I like quite a lot: The Palace Thief, by Ethan Canin The Beau Monde of Mrs. Bridge, by Evan S. Connell Flying Carpets, by Steven Millhauser Why don't you dance, by Raymond Carver Bangkok, by James Salter Another Drunk Gambler, by Craig Nova I'll stop there - now that I've started making this list, I realize there are more stories here that I like than ones I don't. All in all, a good reading experience and definitely a good study of the short story in all its forms.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Found its way on my radar when I searched the catalog at the library in the city I just moved to--that is searched it for Guy Davenport. Pleasantly, the only other of his they have is Charles Burchfield's Seasons. The story included is "Dinner at the Bank of England"--a playful, sometimes prodding, other times deeply searching, but never plodding, imagined retelling ("conjectural restoration") of a meeting between George Santayana, the gay Harvard professor of philosophy--then an old man--and a y Found its way on my radar when I searched the catalog at the library in the city I just moved to--that is searched it for Guy Davenport. Pleasantly, the only other of his they have is Charles Burchfield's Seasons. The story included is "Dinner at the Bank of England"--a playful, sometimes prodding, other times deeply searching, but never plodding, imagined retelling ("conjectural restoration") of a meeting between George Santayana, the gay Harvard professor of philosophy--then an old man--and a young English soldier, a young ruddy and beautiful boy of a soldier who's been tasked with watching after the bank and inspecting some segment of it come, anon, the stroke of eleven--but until then sitting with Santayana. Well, Davenport, bisexual as he was--he had a male as well as a female lover--we can perhaps find to some degree in the aging Santayana--Davenport himself nearing his final decade at the time the story was originally published, and given that the old philosopher comes away from the interview a bit let down, having gone no farther than talk--a definition of "materialism" for the youngster, and allusions to Plato and Berkeley, principally writers of dialogues....I say "perhaps" because I hate placing the writer in his or her work--I would have enjoyed this story without knowing anything about Davenport--and even had I known nothing of Santayana--foremost, that he was gay--yes, I would have enjoyed it, it's a fine story--a Dickensian sketch, remembering and rhyming with the Portraits (those painterly names) of Pater and James--as well as the colloquies of Landor--which, of course, we all came to through Davenport.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    The Editor's Note at the beginning of Object Lessons (and the short description on the back cover) claims that the collection, made up of well known writers choosing stories they admire for technical skill, is meant to be read by young writers and people who don't regularly read short stories, in order to "remind them how varied the form can be, how vital it remains, and how much pleasure it can give." While some of the stories here are among my favorites of all time - particularly, David Means' The Editor's Note at the beginning of Object Lessons (and the short description on the back cover) claims that the collection, made up of well known writers choosing stories they admire for technical skill, is meant to be read by young writers and people who don't regularly read short stories, in order to "remind them how varied the form can be, how vital it remains, and how much pleasure it can give." While some of the stories here are among my favorites of all time - particularly, David Means' selection of Carver's "Why Don't You Dance" - I would definitely not burden a young writer or a novice short-story reader with this collection. A better description for this collection would have been "writers you admire choosing stories they admire." Each story is preceded by a short explanation from the writer who selected it for the collection, meant to explain why the story specifically was chosen. Most of these explanations, however, only serve to point out some prevalent themes and issues at work in the story, without informing the "young writers" the collection is aimed at what use each of these stories has for him or her. Some of the explanations are so short, you wonder if the writer wanted to say anything at all. Object Lessons does do a better job at showing how varied the short story form can be, but it leans so hard on variation that there are almost no stories illustrating how effective a basic structure can be. All of these criticisms shouldn't imply that the collection is bad - there are some excellent finds here, both highly well known and not quite, and I can't deny that each story is expertly crafted. My issue isn't with the stories really, but with the collection as a whole. It is not instructive or particularly enlightening. Any young writer looking for a collection with variation should head to the nearest library and seek out as any different editions of the annual collection, Best American Short Stories. If the Paris Review wants to take another stab at Object Lessons, maybe they should make the lessons clearer.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Allie

    I got about a third of the way through this collection before quitting. This isn't a terrible collection by any means. There's a nice variety of stories, but the choices are mostly obvious ones. If you're familiar with contemporary fiction at all, you'll recognize a lot of these. There are some great standouts, like "Bangkok" and "Pelican Song", but most of the selections are dutifully canonical. After all, what undergraduate writing workshop is complete without a Denis Johnson story? Denis John I got about a third of the way through this collection before quitting. This isn't a terrible collection by any means. There's a nice variety of stories, but the choices are mostly obvious ones. If you're familiar with contemporary fiction at all, you'll recognize a lot of these. There are some great standouts, like "Bangkok" and "Pelican Song", but most of the selections are dutifully canonical. After all, what undergraduate writing workshop is complete without a Denis Johnson story? Denis Johnson is fantastic, of course, which is why he's so often anthologized, but it'd be nice to see something new. Letting different authors choose and introduce the stories is a neat idea (see: The New Yorker Fiction Podcast), but most of the introductions don't really add much to the collection, because they consist of one-dimensional praise rather than actual critical analysis. If you're looking for an introduction to the contemporary short story, I'd recommend The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories or The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories instead.

  11. 4 out of 5

    May

    So I've been reading Object Lessons: the Paris Review for nearly the entire day - it's a collection of short stories and as you know, the rule of short stories is that you can never read one only once. I'm halfway through the 14th one and suffering because (as with most short stories) it makes no sense (The Palace Thief by Ethan Canin); nonetheless, this book is definitely living up to the editor's claim that it is "useful to young writers, and to others interested in literary technique." All 13 So I've been reading Object Lessons: the Paris Review for nearly the entire day - it's a collection of short stories and as you know, the rule of short stories is that you can never read one only once. I'm halfway through the 14th one and suffering because (as with most short stories) it makes no sense (The Palace Thief by Ethan Canin); nonetheless, this book is definitely living up to the editor's claim that it is "useful to young writers, and to others interested in literary technique." All 13.5 of the stories I've been reading so far prove their educational worth in some form. One can read through these stories and learn much about "the art of the short story" the same way one could observe a class of students, identify the athlete, artist and writer, and learn much about people. Joy Williams' Dimmer, the incipient story in this collection, exemplifies the wonderful way an amalgamation of poetry and prose can pan out. James Salter's Bangkok, which abandons the use of quotation marks (I love this) and instead allows the characters' conversation to melt into the pulse of the story, is dialogue-dedicated and henceforth instructive. Mary-Beth Hughes' Pelican Song and Bernard Cooper's Old Birds (the latter is the long lost cousin of Adam Haslett's Notes to my Biographer) exemplify how to seamlessly craft in prose a loving and often heartbreaking parent-child relationship. Let's not forget the killer 'gambling' metaphor in Craig Nova's Another Drunk Gambler. We've all heard the saying, "Watch and Learn." Object Lessons shows that it is important, too, to "Read and Learn."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Erica

    The stories themselves were marvelously written -- definitely masters of the genre. The introductory remarks by the contemporary writers ranged from genuine and insightful to pompous and showy. 500 words of introduction ought not be a chance to show off your own supposed mastery of fiction. As with many, if not most, compilations of this nature, queer authors and authors of color were underrepresented. This doesn't diminish the stories that were included, which I enjoyed very, very much. But of The stories themselves were marvelously written -- definitely masters of the genre. The introductory remarks by the contemporary writers ranged from genuine and insightful to pompous and showy. 500 words of introduction ought not be a chance to show off your own supposed mastery of fiction. As with many, if not most, compilations of this nature, queer authors and authors of color were underrepresented. This doesn't diminish the stories that were included, which I enjoyed very, very much. But of course, there are many talented POC, queer, and QPOC authors out there. Chances are some of them have been favored enough to grace the pages of the Paris Review.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Carmel

    While I enjoyed a few of these stories immensely and some moderately so, there were several "misses" that were very hard to follow and I didn't enjoy reading very much. The introductions were also hit or miss. Some directly stated "This is what makes this story awesome", while others just rambled about the author. I often found that I would read the introduction, read the story, and then go back to the introduction to attempt to make sense of what it was meaning to say about the story. I liked t While I enjoyed a few of these stories immensely and some moderately so, there were several "misses" that were very hard to follow and I didn't enjoy reading very much. The introductions were also hit or miss. Some directly stated "This is what makes this story awesome", while others just rambled about the author. I often found that I would read the introduction, read the story, and then go back to the introduction to attempt to make sense of what it was meaning to say about the story. I liked the concept, I just felt like the introductions needed more editing and guidance. Worth the read though for the variance of the stories.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Zeny

    I bought this book in the hopes that I could learn a thing or two in improving my fiction writing. But as it turns out, the essays which accompanies the short stories within this collection were but brief one or two page essays about what made that story particularly good and fitting for the aesthetics (if any is asserted by the editors through the years) of the Paris Review. I had to adjust my lenses a little bit and battle with the id. This fine collection is for the fiction connoisseur (or, a I bought this book in the hopes that I could learn a thing or two in improving my fiction writing. But as it turns out, the essays which accompanies the short stories within this collection were but brief one or two page essays about what made that story particularly good and fitting for the aesthetics (if any is asserted by the editors through the years) of the Paris Review. I had to adjust my lenses a little bit and battle with the id. This fine collection is for the fiction connoisseur (or, at least, the connoisseur within the student-novice).

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Crowl

    This book is outstanding. The introductions for each story are invaluable. I didn't love every story but it was a great learning experience -- one of the best I've enjoyed from a single book. "Dimmer" by Joy Williams is easily one of the most incredible short stories I've ever read, and I discovered the hilarity of Norman Rush. Worthwhile for any writer or reader. This book is outstanding. The introductions for each story are invaluable. I didn't love every story but it was a great learning experience -- one of the best I've enjoyed from a single book. "Dimmer" by Joy Williams is easily one of the most incredible short stories I've ever read, and I discovered the hilarity of Norman Rush. Worthwhile for any writer or reader.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Arkadia

    All in all, a powerful collection of stories from some of our most glimmering contemporary minds. I should be clear that this is not a "how to" crash course on short stories, as the title may vaguely suggest. I read it hoping it would be such. I was wrong - but I was not disappointed. For the eager writer, there is a lot to be studied here in the mastery of prose and tale displayed - but it'll take some autodidacticism, there's no hand-holding in this respect. Regardless, a gorgeous collection of All in all, a powerful collection of stories from some of our most glimmering contemporary minds. I should be clear that this is not a "how to" crash course on short stories, as the title may vaguely suggest. I read it hoping it would be such. I was wrong - but I was not disappointed. For the eager writer, there is a lot to be studied here in the mastery of prose and tale displayed - but it'll take some autodidacticism, there's no hand-holding in this respect. Regardless, a gorgeous collection of stories by an astonishing collection of writers. There were, inevitably, a few stories that were "duds" for my personal taste, but the breadth of style and atmosphere in this collection are part of its inherent strength. The vast majority were wonderful trips to vividly-imagined lives, told from fresh perspectives or with scalpel-like prose. The book walks a tightrope between traditional narratives and surrealistic approaches, so that every new story is like a palate cleanser - it at no point allows itself to get stale, which seems to be an unfortunately regular habit of literary collections. The interviews with other acclaimed writers at the beginning of each story were largely a let-down - they rarely added anything to deepen our understanding or appreciation of the story. They often read like perfunctory introductions and praises of the author in question, rather than giving unique insights. There were a couple whose interviews interested me and added something to my experience, but for the most part the book would not have been any different had they been left off entirely. It was also confusing and counter-intuitive to be presented the interviews to read before the stories. I ended up skipping the interviews until I'd finished the story it referred to and then flipping pages back to read the interview, as not to spoil the coming story and to appreciate their words in context. An odd decision by the publishers. Favourites include City Boy by Leonard Michaels, Car Crash While Hitchhiking by Denis Johnson, Except for the Sickness I'm Quite Healthy Now. You Can Believe That by Thomas Glynn, and Pelican Song by Mary-Beth Hughes. I'm the kind of reader who loves an unexpected segue into the untraditional, the macabre, the fantastic, the odd, and this little list of mine reflects that. If you too lean a little 'strange' in your reading, know that this book has you covered. There is plenty to be enjoyed by those who prefer more traditionalist narratives too. For those who appreciate a pen used as a well-honed sword and an inked tongue sharp as a feather - there's a lot to be enjoyed here, and a lot to be absorbed too, if you're so-inclined.

  17. 5 out of 5

    SundayAtDusk

    I like short stories. Just not most of the ones in this book. After reading Ben Ryder Howe's account of working with George Plimpton in My Korean Deli: Risking It All for a Convenience Store , I should have guessed I probably was not going to like them. (And unworldly types please take note: George Plimpton did not work in a Korean deli; he worked at The Paris Review.) All of the 20 stories in this book were first published in The Paris Review, where Mr. Plimpton was the editor, and where quirki I like short stories. Just not most of the ones in this book. After reading Ben Ryder Howe's account of working with George Plimpton in My Korean Deli: Risking It All for a Convenience Store , I should have guessed I probably was not going to like them. (And unworldly types please take note: George Plimpton did not work in a Korean deli; he worked at The Paris Review.) All of the 20 stories in this book were first published in The Paris Review, where Mr. Plimpton was the editor, and where quirkiness was obviously seen as a virtue. The first story in this book was so quirky, I could not go on reading after four pages. Not a good start. Things got no better until thirteen stories later--Ethan Canin's The Palace Thief. That was an interesting, normal type story of a teacher at a boy's private school. Evan S. Connell's The Beau Monde of Mrs. Bridge, story number nineteen, also was quite readable, as was Norman Rush's Lying Presences, story number seventeen. (However, I did not like the ending of story number seventeen.) The story I liked the best was Steven Millhauser's Flying Carpets, a glorious combination of fantasy and childhood nostalgia. Rod Serling would have loved it. So, who should buy this book and who should check it out of the library? Well, if you're a sophisticated New Yorker or Parisian, you might consider buying it. On the other hand, if you're someone who mostly reads the winning short stories in the writing contests in women's magazines, and you think they are excellent short stories, you probably should just check this book out of the library . . . and use the money you save to buy some women's magazines, that still publish short stories. (Note: I received a free ARC of this book from Amazon Vine.)

  18. 5 out of 5

    Manuel Calvillo

    I love the concept of this book. Great contemporary authors choose their favorite Paris Review fiction pieces by other amazing authors and write an intro to the stories, an explanation of the story's key elements, a discussion of what makes the story successful. In many occasions, this book offers insightful advice. It is an incredible thrill to read some of the "masters of story" write about their selected piece in such excited and passionate ways. As I read, I could feel how the contributors we I love the concept of this book. Great contemporary authors choose their favorite Paris Review fiction pieces by other amazing authors and write an intro to the stories, an explanation of the story's key elements, a discussion of what makes the story successful. In many occasions, this book offers insightful advice. It is an incredible thrill to read some of the "masters of story" write about their selected piece in such excited and passionate ways. As I read, I could feel how the contributors were having fun with their assignment, enjoyed talking about these things they love, these stories that moved them. A great example would be Dave Eggers talking about James Salter's "Bangkok" (the thought of that even sounds dreamy). Eggers is not broad or vague when he shares his learnings. He talks in detail about Salter's genius use of dialogue, explaining carefully how each element in the story is meaningful, how Salter is able to create such a powerful scene with only two characters and their words. The idea of this collection is so intriguing and some the introductions of the guest authors so engaging that I really wished, many times, they were longer. Sometimes the "lessons" were contained in one or two pages, which felt kind of lacking and too general. Instead of maintaining focus on the analysis of the story chosen, the attention often turned to generalities about the writers' works. As much as I appreciate learning more about the general style of my favorite writers or of new writers, I wanted to read more about the "lessons" that the selected stories could teach us (especially since these intros are often short). It has been six years since the first edition of this book came out and it would be interesting to read a new selection of 20 stories with longer introductions. This concept has enormous potential as a tool for aspiring writers, since the stories included have been important/relevant at least at some point in time.

  19. 5 out of 5

    A. Collins

    I've been wondering if I should subscribe to The Paris Review and now I feel confident I will. Some quotes: "It was dusk and there were hundreds on the beach . . . cooking their meat, the children eating ice cream pies, the old ones staring into the sun." "...what they believed to be his baby chortlings were only the mice clicking and ticking in the stove." "And he was going to America where mice were found in bottled Coca-Cola straight from the machine." ◾️"The more I looked at his forehead the m I've been wondering if I should subscribe to The Paris Review and now I feel confident I will. Some quotes: "It was dusk and there were hundreds on the beach . . . cooking their meat, the children eating ice cream pies, the old ones staring into the sun." "...what they believed to be his baby chortlings were only the mice clicking and ticking in the stove." "And he was going to America where mice were found in bottled Coca-Cola straight from the machine." ◾️"The more I looked at his forehead the more it reminded me of a beach, so I painted it as a beach." ◾️" "I hope you don't mind I left my shirt in that damned Otis elevator." "No. I don't mind. I like chests. Especially with strong American brains behind them." ◾️"I wonder if thoughts are fluid, and flow downward, from one one person to another, within the same house." ◾️"As I float over the shadowed northern world, I think now that we all go off into darkness, bit by bit, piece by piece, part by part. We all disintegrate into our worlds, our sentences, our paragraphs, our narratives. We scatter our lives into photographs, letters, certificates, books, prizes, lies. We ride out the light until the records break one by one. We sit out the days until the sun gets dimmer and dimmer." "It is crack time in the world of flesh. It is shatter time in the world of limbs. It is splatter time in the world of bones."

  20. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Unevenness is an inevitable characteristic of short story anthologies, not necessarily because the quality of story varies across the collection, but rather because among such variety there's bound to be certain styles that please one's individual taste more or less than others. It's not something you can really hold against the anthology, however, because it's simply part of its nature. If you don't like the variety, you should read something different. You can blame this particular anthology, Unevenness is an inevitable characteristic of short story anthologies, not necessarily because the quality of story varies across the collection, but rather because among such variety there's bound to be certain styles that please one's individual taste more or less than others. It's not something you can really hold against the anthology, however, because it's simply part of its nature. If you don't like the variety, you should read something different. You can blame this particular anthology, however, for not fulfilling its mission of being "useful to young writers, and to others interested in literary technique," which happens here occasionally with the introductions that are included ostensibly to help you. Some of them achieve the goal of clarity, with Alarcon on Joy Williams, Beattie on Craig Nova, Davis on Jane Bowles, and Williams on Dallas Wiebe being some specific examples of illumination. Others are maddeningly vague and amorphous; even after reading them I felt unclear of the story's point. As the probable nadir of these introductions, Wells Towers's intro to "The Beau Monde of Mrs. Bridge" is not only useless but outrageously pretentious, as if he were trying to show up every other presenter (and failing miserably). Largely though, the intros are helpful in pointing out what to look for in appreciating each short story, something I was greatly looking forward to in starting this collection because the short story form, like poetry, is something I've never really felt I "got." It's most likely related to my love of the novel, and the fact that short stories are exponentially compacted and therefore require a corresponding augmentation in one's attention to detail. My habit of zipping through a page-turning novel doesn't transfer well here, where instead focus and contemplation are more rewarding. I appreciated that most of these intros provided certain tips on how best I could channel my attention. Strangely, I may have appreciated even more the intros to the stories I didn't like. Whereas before I would have felt defective for not understanding an acclaimed story, the intros helped me see that I merely do not value the goals of those particular stories, particularly those that are almost wholly experiments in form. As a novel-lover, I value story above all else, followed by character. As a rule, form and style are interesting to me only insofar as they complement one of the former aspects. In certain books and stories, however, the author is concerned primarily with investigating the boundaries and possibilities of form, a focus which bores me in very short order. Here, stories like Leonard Michaels's "City Boy," Glynn's "Except for the Sickness," Barthelme's "Several Garlic Tales," and Davenport's "Dinner at the Bank of England" fell into this category. Borges often devolves into this exercise as well, though he does it better than almost anyone else. But now, thanks to this book, I'm okay with not liking them. I don't feel like a failure. I can simply recognize that they're not my bag. Most of the other stories were in my "Pretty Great" category of stuff I enjoyed but that didn't blow me away: Millhauser's "Flying Carpets" was a satisfying depiction of childhood nostalgia; Carver's "Why Don't We Dance?", like most Carver, is a hauntingly sad look at the opacity of human interaction; Wiebe's "Night Flight to Stockholm" is a multi-layered absurdist romp and the similarly distinct structures of both Davis's "Ten Stories from Flaubert" and Connell's "The Beau Monde of Mrs. Bridge" enhance the effects of their poignant observations. Nova's "Another Drunk Gambler" scratched my recent Graham Greene itch with its vivid depiction of a seedy foreign land. Jane Bowles provides a good mix of her husband and J.D. Salinger with her gripping diary of a deteriorating psyche. Rush's "Lying Presences" is one of my favorites, a fascinating character study of two estranged (er. . . alienated?) brothers. The next notable group are those select authors whose works I will actively seek out after this sampling. I'm sheepish to reveal that they're all men, but I don't know how much I can consciously alter which works impact me most. The first is James Salter, whose "Bangkok" is, as Dave Eggers notes in his excellent introduction, "a nine-page master class in dialogue." Rarely have I become so well acquainted with two characters over such a short space and with only their spoken words to know them by. It's downright voyeuristic. The next is Denis Johnson, who a friend highly recommended to me. His "Car Crash While Hitchhiking" reads like a bad mushroom trip, one with delusions of grandeur and a crushing, heartbreaking sense of nihilism. In painting form it would be Munch's "The Scream." But my favorite of the whole collection was Ethan Canin's "The Palace Thief." I can't even really explain why. Maybe it's the classic, unadorned narration or the fascinating sociopathy of the main subject. A lot of it has to do with the heartbreaking and all-too-familiar cowardice of the narrator himself. Maybe it's just the length, which makes it more a novella and consequently more in my wheelhouse. Canin presents the whole thing as almost a mystery while everything told seems absolutely inevitable. It's a terrific mix and the most satisfying of the bunch for me. All in all it's a good collection, perhaps not as helpful as I had hoped in terms of understanding the art form, but enjoyable and rarely boring. The strangest part is that while I consider myself very well-read, I only recognized four of the authors' names (six including the presenters). I think it's mostly because I'm largely out of touch with contemporary literature, and even moreso with contemporary short stories. In that sense the collection is disheartening, as it reveals a whole world of fantastic authors of which I've hitherto been unaware. It's one of those (sigh) humbling moments when I realize I haven't traversed nearly as much terrain as I had thought. Not Bad Reviews @pointblaek

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jean Carlton

    2+ I struggled with this collection. I feel inadequate when I don't like or 'get' stories by authors highly praised by 'everyone'. Twenty masters of the short story genre were asked to choose a story from the PR archives and write an intro to the story which describes the key to that story's success as a work of fiction. This would be of particular help to writers and students who want to understand fiction from a writer's point of view and is the reason I picked up the book. Unfortunately, only 2+ I struggled with this collection. I feel inadequate when I don't like or 'get' stories by authors highly praised by 'everyone'. Twenty masters of the short story genre were asked to choose a story from the PR archives and write an intro to the story which describes the key to that story's success as a work of fiction. This would be of particular help to writers and students who want to understand fiction from a writer's point of view and is the reason I picked up the book. Unfortunately, only a couple of intros were helpful to that end. There were a handful of stories I liked and will remember. I quickly switched to reading the story first and then looking at the intro. I am glad I persisted in spite of my general disappointment because the last story saved it all. Night Flight to Stockholm, a hilarious yet grotesque satire about the desire to be published. It had me laughing out-loud.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jonny Warschauer

    Diverse selection of sumptuous stories by 20th century masters of the form, introduced, contextualized, and venerated by other masters (although, due to scattered spoilers in the intros, I chose to go back and read these after I had read the story itself). An especially terrific read for anyone interested in the craft of short fiction, but also great for anyone who just likes a good story. The book itself also has a premium feel indicative of a reverence for books on the part of the people at th Diverse selection of sumptuous stories by 20th century masters of the form, introduced, contextualized, and venerated by other masters (although, due to scattered spoilers in the intros, I chose to go back and read these after I had read the story itself). An especially terrific read for anyone interested in the craft of short fiction, but also great for anyone who just likes a good story. The book itself also has a premium feel indicative of a reverence for books on the part of the people at the Paris Review. Oh, and Denis Johnson is on some serious god level shit, but then again, so is everyone included here to some extent.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Schemehorn

    As you might expect from an anthology, there a couple of great stories, some not so great. Too many of them, however, were at LEAST 40 years old. A story written in the 60s is not automatically bad, but it seemed as if the model of short story that the editors selected were supposed to be timeless, but were really unremarkable. I could maybe recall one complete story after having read the collection, and I literally just put it down. Not a bad one, just really, really not to my taste.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Warning: Super high literature from "writer's writers" Warning: Super high literature from "writer's writers"

  25. 4 out of 5

    Balaram Briant

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. By far the best anthology of short stories I have ever read. The Paris Review requested some of their best writers to pick a favorite short story (by someone else) from the magazines archive and write a short introduction on why they chose it. The result is extraordinary: a collection that I read cover to cover, wherein not one story failed to impress. For me, this is indeed rare. I often find only a fraction of the stories in a collection to be enjoyable, or else I skip altogether the ones that By far the best anthology of short stories I have ever read. The Paris Review requested some of their best writers to pick a favorite short story (by someone else) from the magazines archive and write a short introduction on why they chose it. The result is extraordinary: a collection that I read cover to cover, wherein not one story failed to impress. For me, this is indeed rare. I often find only a fraction of the stories in a collection to be enjoyable, or else I skip altogether the ones that don't interest me. This book wasn't like that. I read every single story and I feel I learned a lot from all of them. Some reviewers have expressed dissatisfaction in regards to the educational performance of the prefaces for each story. They are short and many are only explanations for why the author chose that story for the anthology; some of them do attempt to explain what made the story good, but most are only an explanation for the choice. Admittedly, I would have liked it better if some of these story intros had been more technical and explanatory, as I am a writer. But my expectation, and subsequent appreciation, for this collection had much more to do with the stories themselves, all of which are stellar. So the introduction issue is, to me, only a minor area that could have been improved. Also, I recommend reading these explanation/introductions after the stories themselves, because some of them do contain major spoilers. I won't get too much into which stories I liked and why, because as I said, this is a rare anthology that truly warrants cover-to-cover reading. Even after finishing it there are several stories that I plan on reading perpetually throughout my life, and to which I will refer anyone interested in the achievements possible in the short story medium. These are those stories: Dimmer by Joy Williams, Except for the Sickness I'm Quite Healthy Now. You can believe that. by Thomas Glynn, City Boy by Leonard Michaels, Flying Carpets by Steven Millhauser, The Palace Thief by Ethan Canin, and Pelican Song by Mary Beth-Hughes. Oh, I guess I just named about half. But that just goes to show the excellence of this anthology.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anjan

    This book is not what it set out to be, a book discussing examples of what makes for a well-written story. There are merely two or three introductions to stories where we are provided some insight about the selected story from the reviewing author. Otherwise, the brilliant but unsubstantial introductions will not provide a reader with any insight on how to write or read other stories. The best thing about this compellation is that it plunges the reader right into a story without any context (as This book is not what it set out to be, a book discussing examples of what makes for a well-written story. There are merely two or three introductions to stories where we are provided some insight about the selected story from the reviewing author. Otherwise, the brilliant but unsubstantial introductions will not provide a reader with any insight on how to write or read other stories. The best thing about this compellation is that it plunges the reader right into a story without any context (as soon as you stop reading the introductions). Was the story written in 1940, 170 or 2008? Absent temporal or social context the story is given a clean slate within the reader’s mind upon which to grow and bloom. I’m not used to approaching stories with this little context and found it refreshing to have to look for clues and context that I was used to being implied. Not being primed, I feel I left this collection of stories with a better understanding about how a story builds or relies upon context of when and where the reader finds the story. This experience was worth the effort of reading the book, but perhaps other readers can find other books that provide the same experience. Did enjoy reading “the palace thief”, if you google it you can easily find it. A couple of other stories I enjoyed but not enough to recommend the book to others.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    I'm not the right type of reader for story collections like that. I liked some stories, not so much others. None of them will stay with me. Ok, maybe the Carver story. I will enjoy story collections by one author, because it lets you immerse yourself in the writing style and favourite themes of that author. Good collections can have more or less the emotional power of a novel. I will also enjoy reading a single short story once in a while, like in a magazine. But a whole collection of disparate s I'm not the right type of reader for story collections like that. I liked some stories, not so much others. None of them will stay with me. Ok, maybe the Carver story. I will enjoy story collections by one author, because it lets you immerse yourself in the writing style and favourite themes of that author. Good collections can have more or less the emotional power of a novel. I will also enjoy reading a single short story once in a while, like in a magazine. But a whole collection of disparate short stories with no connection whatsoever between them just doesn't do it for me. I feel pressured to finish the book, to read them all, when I should be taking it slowly, leaving the book on my night table for something like a year. As for the short introductory essays, I pretty much bought the book on their promise, expecting a good amount of useful commentary and criticism. I was very disappointed with most of these essays, with one notable exception being the Eggers piece.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Having read most of the stories in this collection, I was particularly interested in the accompanying essays for each story. The premise of this book was extremely intriguing and exciting to me. Most of the essays did not disappoint, but several did. Without being specific, as I recently traded the book, I was hoping for a little more in-depth analysis and insight into "the short story" rather than some of the gushing and obvious blurbs that instead occupied the spaces I was expecting to fit the Having read most of the stories in this collection, I was particularly interested in the accompanying essays for each story. The premise of this book was extremely intriguing and exciting to me. Most of the essays did not disappoint, but several did. Without being specific, as I recently traded the book, I was hoping for a little more in-depth analysis and insight into "the short story" rather than some of the gushing and obvious blurbs that instead occupied the spaces I was expecting to fit the bill of "craft essay." I recommend it for the fiction, which is mostly stellar--Denis Johnson's and James Salter's stories in particular, and most of the essays, despite my complaints, are quite enjoyable and useful. Still, if you're looking for a strong, new story anthology, I'd steer you toward the 2012 O. Henry Prize and the B.A.S.S. collections before this one.

  29. 5 out of 5

    PG

    2/5 would be harsher but how-I-feel-er. The biggest takeaway: I wanted to subscribe to The Paris Review before. I don't want to subscribe to The Paris Review now. The stories here span the decades, and they're 60/40 dull/delish. And the delish aren't even delish delish. My inner editor went wild on those pages. And typos? Really? In pieces from up-to-50 years ago? Shambolic, Lorin, Sadie. To really rub-a-dub it too, each story was chosen by a known author/contributor-to-TPR, and each author intr 2/5 would be harsher but how-I-feel-er. The biggest takeaway: I wanted to subscribe to The Paris Review before. I don't want to subscribe to The Paris Review now. The stories here span the decades, and they're 60/40 dull/delish. And the delish aren't even delish delish. My inner editor went wild on those pages. And typos? Really? In pieces from up-to-50 years ago? Shambolic, Lorin, Sadie. To really rub-a-dub it too, each story was chosen by a known author/contributor-to-TPR, and each author introduces each story. And that gets old quick. QUICK. And they don't just do the love-it-love-it-love-its. They start to dissect. And many of the chosen are not long fiction. Pseudo-self-congratulatory fluff, smackos. /end_rantlet.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    Imagine you're thirsty and the only place you can find is a hipster coffee shop where everything's gluten free or soya and they won't give you a hot coffee because apparently if it's at a proper temperature it disturbs the delicate balance and artistic joie de vivre of the free-range Narnian coffee beans. They play free trade music because the barista once went and helped build a shed in Africa so some poor kiddies could receive a sub-standard education. The coffee is five quid. There's a poetry Imagine you're thirsty and the only place you can find is a hipster coffee shop where everything's gluten free or soya and they won't give you a hot coffee because apparently if it's at a proper temperature it disturbs the delicate balance and artistic joie de vivre of the free-range Narnian coffee beans. They play free trade music because the barista once went and helped build a shed in Africa so some poor kiddies could receive a sub-standard education. The coffee is five quid. There's a poetry reading taking place. This is the book equivalent of that. There is some good writing, obviously, but the whole thing felt like it existed in an upper middle class bubble, and so touched on the real meat of the truth only sparingly and seldom in depth.

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