Twenty masters of the genre were asked to choose a story from the archives of Paris Review and analyze the key to the success of that work of fiction. The result is a compendium of highly diverse authors and the equally diverse short stories of their choice, which rely on various elements to makes the story shine, ranging from back story to dialogue to the absurdity of the plot.
Though useful to young writers and others interested in literary technique, the collection of stories can be enjoyed as leisurely reading that reveals the wide range of styles in the short story genre and gives the reader insight into how the authors who chose the stories read and perceive the written word.
Ann Beattie introduces Craig Nova’s Another Drunk Gambler, in which she extols the language as “a wonder” with its rich details.
David Bezmosgis reviews Leonard Michael’s City Boy, writing about familiar subject that manages not to be banal in a multi-dimensional account of two young lovers staring at the girl’s father while her mother yells in the background to “tell the schmuck to go home and keep his own parents awake.”
Dave Eggers’ commentary praises James Salter’s Bangkok for the first-class dialogue between Hollis and his ex-lover Carol, who makes an unexpected visit to his bookshop and nonchalantly reveals a surprising truth. Hollis’s response is subtle but deftly portrayed.
Lydia Davis’s introduction reveals her admiration for the superb narrative in Jane Bowles’ Emmy Moore’s Journal. The story itself presents a strong narrative voice and a female protagonist whose eccentric voice is humorous in Bowles’ almost rambling account of her writing a letter to her husband saying she is at hotel. But instead of justifying her reasons for being at the hotel to him, the protagonist begins writing pages about her perceptions and observation of women of various parts of the world (making sure to define who are from the Western world and who are Orientals, Latin and Turkish women).
David Means introduces Raymond Carver’s Why Don’t you Dance? Means applauds Carver’s genius in general and how he was able to capture the human condition so eloquently. In this peculiar story, a chance encounter between a young couple and an old man resonates with the old man at that moment but also with the young woman and leaves the reader with questions about the incident.
A partial list of the other authors and the pieces they are offering for review include
This rich book is filled with authors and stories providing diverse insight that informs and inspires readers and writers alike, in the art of reading and writing short stories.
- Amy Hempel, introducing Bernard Cooper’s Old Birds;
- Wells Tower on Evan S. Connell’s The Beau Monde of Mrs. Bridge;
- Jeffrey Eugenides on Denis Johnson’, Car Crash While Hitchhiking;
- Mary Gaitskill introducing Mary-Beth Hughes Pelican Song;
- Norman Rush on Guy Davenport’s Dinner at the Bank of England;
- Mona Simpson on Norman Rush’s Lying Presences;
- and Jonathan Lethem introducing Thomas Glynn’s Except for the Sickness, I’m quite Healthy Now. You can Believe That.