The Oxford Book of American Short Stories

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9780195070651: The Oxford Book of American Short Stories

"How ironic," Joyce Carol Oates writes in her introduction to this marvelous collection, "that in our age of rapid mass-production and the easy proliferation of consumer products, the richness and diversity of the American literary imagination should be so misrepresented in most anthologies." Why, she asks, when writers such as Samuel Clemens, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor, Saul Bellow, and John Updike have among them written hundreds of short stories, do anthologists settle on the same two or three titles by each author again and again? "Isn't the implicit promise of an anthology that it will, or aspires to, present something different, unexpected?"
In The Oxford Book of American Short Stories, Joyce Carol Oates offers a sweeping survey of American short fiction, in a collection of fifty-six tales that combines classic works with many "different, unexpected" gems, and that invites readers to explore a wealth of important pieces by women and minority writers. Some selections simply can't be improved on, Oates admits, and she happily includes such time-honored works as Irving's "Rip Van Winkle," Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," and Hemingway's "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place." But alongside these classics, Oates introduces such little-known stories as Mark Twain's "Cannibalism in the Cars," a story that reveals a darker side to his humor ("That morning we had Morgan of Alabama for breakfast. He was one of the finest men I ever sat down to...a perfect gentleman, and singularly juicy"). From Melville come the juxtaposed tales "The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids," of which Oates says, "Only Melville could have fashioned out of 'real' events...such harrowing and dreamlike allegorical fiction." From Flannery O'Connor we find "A Late Encounter With the Enemy," and from John Cheever, "The Death of Justina," one of Cheever's own favorites, though rarely anthologized. The reader will also delight in the range of authors found here, from Charles W. Chesnutt, Jean Toomer, and Sarah Orne Jewett, to William Carlos Williams, Kate Chopin, and Zora Neale Hurston. Contemporary artists abound, including Bharati Mukherjee and Amy Tan, Alice Adams and David Leavitt, Bobbie Ann Mason and Tim O'Brien, Louise Erdrich and John Edgar Wideman. Oates provides fascinating introductions to each writer, blending biographical information with her own trenchant observations about their work, plus a long introductory essay, in which she offers the fruit of years of reflection on a genre in which she herself is a master.
This then is a book of surprises, a fascinating portrait of American short fiction, as filtered through the sensibility of a major modern writer.

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About the Author:


Joyce Carol Oates is one of America's preeminent writers. Since 1978, she has been on the faculty of Princeton University and is a co-editor of The Ontario Review.

Review:

"Provides a history of not only the evolution of the short story, but also of American culture....The collection is more than a survey of writing styles. It is a celebration of the diversity of American culture."--Denver Post

"Joyce Carol Oates has cast her net further and deeper, drawing from American literature's impressive past and substantial cultural wealth....Exceptional."--Booklist

"Readers who take an encompassing view of American literature and culture will love this book, which brilliantly captures the range and heft of the remarkable American contribution to the short story genre. With penetrating introductions by Joyce Carol Oates to each writer, this is an anthology of the finest kind, a collection of stories dazzling in variety but unified by an editor of singular intelligence and vision."--Arnold Rampersad, Princeton University

"Joyce Carol Oates, a master fabulist who is also one of our finest critics, has given us a treasury that represents the astonishing range of the American short story. But instead of another showcase of 'greatest hits,' Oates ventures further afield, to uncover a series of neglected but refulgent gems. This is a collection with guts--and brains. Best of all, it's a collection that unfolds, as its editor promises, the larger story of American writing, in all its hues and timbres."--Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University

"Whether for the classroom or the bedtable, The Oxford Book of American Short Stories is indispensable, the best fiction selected and introduced by one of America's finest writers. It's a treasure!"--Cathy N. Davidson, Duke University

"I have taught the tradition 'survey course' in the American Short Story since 1964--Romanticism, Realism, Naturalism, Modernism. It is not possible to teach that kind of traditional course using this text. This had opened up wonderful possibilities for me. I am now teaching the course as a "themes course," since the stories are linked thematically. But I am also teaching it as a course in "how to write stories." I have combined it with my creative writing class."--Professor John Gilgun, Mo. West. College

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Editorial: Oxford University Press, USA (1992)
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