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The Oxford Book of Short Stories (Oxford Books of Prose & Verse) by V. S. Pritchett (2010-05-13)

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  • Oxford University Press (1868)
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Review Text

  • By D. Taylor on January 13, 2018

    This book was delivered in a timely manner. It was mad clear that it was used and it was but it is also very readable and not in bad shape at all. Did I mention the price was Right?

  • By Jo Wragg on September 14, 2013

    I love this collection -- however, I am sorry that I did not order a hard copy. My 82 year old eyes are finding the print on this paper back too small.B. Joan Wragg

  • By Reader in Tokyo on March 18, 2007

    This book was published in 1981 and contained 41 stories by as many writers: American (17), British (13), Irish (7), and one each from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and India.The compiler, V. S. Pritchett, stated honestly that his selections were based on personal taste, and the contents are more or less what one could expect of someone born in 1900, as he was: one-quarter of the stories were from the 19th century, many others (14) were from the 1920s and 30s, and there were 40 white authors, just seven of whom were women. With the omission of just four or five stories, this book could've been published back in the early 1960s, before the turn toward something a bit more inclusive.Still, the book covered the outstanding short-story writers in English: Hawthorne, Poe, Joyce, Mansfield, Hemingway, Frank O'Connor, Flannery O'Connor, Trevor. And many others also of great interest: Bierce, Saki, Lawrence, Anderson, Lardner, Maugham, Faulkner, Welty, Narayan, Lavin, O'Flaherty, O'Faolain, Sansom, Cheever, Lessing. Including Pritchett himself, though I wondered why a better story of his wasn't selected.Some of the writers who were included could perhaps have been omitted (Harte, De La Mare, Coppard, Bates, Callaghan). And others could perhaps have been added, from a shortlist including, among others, Wharton, Cather, William March, Premchand, Mulk Raj Anand, Greene, Beckett, O'Hara, Shaw, Mailer, Gordimer, Sillitoe, Bowles, Moorhouse, Naipaul, Ngugi, Achebe, Barthelme, Baldwin, Ellison, Selby, Yates, Carver, Berriault, Atwood, Angela Carter, Bernard MacLaverty, McEwan and Alice Munro.On the whole, this anthology isn't a bad place for a reader interested in English-language short stories to begin. Maybe eventually, this book in the Oxford series will be updated by a living author of Pritchett's eminence?

  • By Christine on February 21, 2013

    Needed this for college and it was sold at a good price! Love it a lot, can't wait for more college books

  • By Claudi on September 12, 2006

    I have loved short stories all my life and have no problem accepting stories where the story line doesn't appeal to me as long as the the author has written it well. In this collection there are so many stories I just can't tollerate that I have to give this one a 1 even though I haven't finished reading the book. I intend reading all of the stories. What a task.

  • By Lesley A. Gabbitas on January 5, 2013

    This book was aptly described in the ad, and was perfect for my needs! Thank you for making it available.

  • By Diane Schirf on January 8, 2006

    The Oxford Book of Short Stories edited by V. S. Pritchett. Recommended.In his introduction to The Oxford Book of Short Stories, V. S. Pritchett discusses the short story's "relatively new and still changing form," an odd statement since one could make a case that the short story is ancient, whether in oral or written form. For his anthology of short stories written in English, Pritchett draws on approximately two centuries and writers from several countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Canada, India, and New Zealand.Pritchett suggests that an anthology is bound to be a matter of personal taste. When I began reading this particular anthology, I learned that Pritchett is a much-respected short story writer, so it's to be assumed that his opinion and his taste are to be respected. Given the difficulties of editing an anthology, which he mentions in the introduction and which include copyright issues as well as the length of a story and how much it has been anthologized, Pritchett has done an adequate job of representing the short story in a relatively short volume.For me, the problem with this volume-and the "still changing" form of the short story-is alluded to in the last paragraph of the introduction, where Pritchett says, "A modern story comes to an open end." In my opinion, this approach helps to negate the beauty and the power of the short story as distinguished from the novel, that is, "the novel tells us everything, whereas the short story tells us only one thing, and that, intensely."This point is easily illustrated in great short stories, like Sir Walter Scott's "The Two Drovers" and D. H. Lawrence's "The Rocking-Horse Winner (both surprising choices because they are so often included in anthologies). Unlike Pritchett (and, I would suspect, many others), I do not see "Grace" as a story in which James Joyce's "genius was first signalled"; rather, it's a pointless exercise in tedium, like watching people you don't know doing nothing interesting, that left me feeling I couldn't justify the time wasted reading it. There is nothing "intense" about "Grace," nor about Pritchett's own contribution, "Many Are Disappointed," which is an apt description of my reaction.When a short story is "intense"-and good-the reader cannot be left feeling indifferent by an "open end." Stories like "The Rocking-Horse Winner," with its straightforward narrative and fable-like simplicity, evoke strong feelings of horror and dread, despite the commonplace setting and people-a household perpetually in growing debt, like so many, and men who indulge in casual horse betting, like so many. The normalcy of the tone underscores the weirdness of the tale. Other stories, like "The Coup de Grâce" (Ambrose Bierce), "Sredni Vashtar" (Hector Hugh Munro, also known as Saki), "An Official Position" (W. Somerset Maugham), "The Woman at the Store" (Katherine Mansfield), "Various Temptations" (William Sansom), and "Parker's Back" (Flannery O'Connor), seared lasting impressions into my mind due to the richness of setting, characterization, situation, and plot. This is the type of story that makes this anthology worthwhile.Between these gems of the craft are weaker stories that made little if any impact on me. For example, John Updike's "Lifeguard" seems to be a pointless exercise in the author's own wit. The much-touted (and frequently anthologized) "Hills Like White Elephants" (Ernest Hemingway) is also cleverly told and shows the potential of the short story, but left me cold and indifferent. (In fact, I've read this story many times in anthologies and never remember what it's about.) "The Tent" by Liam O'Flaherty shows an "intense" moment, but falls flat. The weaker stories fail to capture the imagination, the heart, or both.The best stories seem to be those that make use of either quirky humor or underlying suspense and horror. Despite its dark theme, Bret Harte's "The Iliad of Sandy Bar" is humorous, with its two protagonists doing their best to outdo each other after what appears to have been a simple disagreement. Mark Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," also a favorite of anthology editors, is dry, witty, and folksy and is a good introduction to Twain. Many of the other stories mentioned, plus stories like Robert Louis Stevenson's "Thrawn Janet," are dark, unsettling, and disturbing. You cannot read them and be unaffected.Indeed, The Oxford Book of Short Stories highlights why the short story format is ideal for humor and horror; these are life's moments of intensity that deserve to be told and heard. For this reason, the stories of the apparently mundane with an open end are the weakest, failing to leave a lasting impression or make an impact.For someone interested in a very limited overview of the short story in English, this is an adequate book with which to start. I would recommend choosing an author whose story strikes you, for example, a John Cheever ("Goodbye, My Brother") or a Stephen Crane ("The Open Boat") and exploring their work in more depth. Find out what moves you and read more of it.


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