My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro
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My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro

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3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  2,080 ratings  ·  320 reviews
"When it comes to love, there are a million theories to explain it. But when it comes to love stories, things are simpler. A love story can never be about full possession. Love stories depend on disappointment, on unequal births and feuding families, on matrimonial boredom and at least one cold heart. Love stories, nearly without exception, give love a bad name.... It is p...more
Hardcover, 587 pages
Published January 8th 2008 by Harper (first published January 1st 2008)
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selena
i have a hard time rating this book as a whole. some of the stories made me cry. others made me want to skip to the next one. some i had already encountered in another life.

i couldn't stop reading this book. i couldn't stop re-reading the stories. reading them aloud to my boyfriend. watching the look on his face to see if they resonated as strongly with him. it was beautiful. and it was heart-breaking. and it hurt. i felt so dreadful after reading some of them, like it was me this was happening...more
Books Ring Mah Bell
Let's revisit the definition of love story, shall we?

While I have to admit most of these are excellent stories, I'm not sure I'd peg them as "love" stories. Maybe my idea of love is just completely different than the authors of these short stories.

In all, this book deserves 5 stars, as most of the writing in here was truly amazing. (and this is high praise coming from a girl who is not big into short stories) I had to knock it down a few stars as the stories simply did not conform to what I want...more
Sarah Jo
It's ridiculously difficult for me to rate this book because there is such a vast difference between the stories that I relished and the ones that I had to trudge through. I adore Eugenides as an author, but his editing skills in regards to a collection of "great" love stories leaves something to be desired. There are certainly stories that, to me, expressed the epitome of love, such as Munro's "The Bear Came Over the Mountain," in which a husband begins to lose his wife of several decades to bo...more
Banafsheh Serov
The moment I love best about any book, is the moment I start the first sentence. That sense of anticipation when starting something new. It's the moment when I open myself to a whole new discovery of characters, plot and settings. It's also an intimate conversation with the author, a small personal confession perhaps or an admission of values whispered through dialogue between characters.

I don't tend to read anthologies of short stories. I only bought 'My mistress's sparrow is dead' because I ac...more
Kate
I loved the variety of stories in this collection--and was happy to be introduced to some "classic" contemporary writers whose work I'd never actually read before.

Okay, I'll admit it. I hadn't read Harold Brodsky before, and for my money, "First Love and Other Sorrows" was worth the whole book. (However, I didn't like the other Brodsky story in the book.) The glacial movement through time and emotion in that story was deceptive; next thing you know, time has passed and all has changed.

I also lov...more
miaaa
Jun 08, 2009 miaaa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lamya
Love stories, nearly without exception, give love a bad name.
- Jeffrey Eugenides

My late grandmother was quite ill the last time I met her. She confused me with her stories as she mixed up my late grandfather with one of my uncle. I did not have a chance to know either of my grandfathers as they died when I was few months old. So the only way to know them was through my grandmother's stories about my grandfather or my father's about his father. I don't know if she had loved her husband, my grand...more
Yulia
Hmm, this is supposedly a great anthology, but is it safe to trust the tastes of an author I don't care for? I'll have to find out. Perhaps he's a better reader than he is a writer, which is too often the case.

It would seem not. Two stars for two happy introductions to writers I hadn't considered before: Miranda July ("Something That Needs Nothing") and David Bezmozgis ("Natasha").

As for the rest:

Erg, the obviousness of some of these choices irritates me (Joyce's "The Dead," Chekhov's "Lady wi...more
MK
Apr 17, 2008 MK is currently reading it
How could this book not be good? I saw it in the bookstore and thought the design was so kick-ass- no book sleeve! We all hate those anyways. The design is ON the hard back. Good decision #1.

#2- Jeffrey Eugenides edited it. I never finished Middlesex because I left it on a plane to Italy. But I was super enthralled during the first 80 pages. I also love the Virgin Suicides. Josh Hartnett, and Sophia Coppola.

#3. The stories, so far, are incredible. And they're not all Dave Egger's-ish in approach...more
Adam
Mixed bag. Some of the selections are just obvious classics everyone's read: "A Rose for Emily," "The Dead," "The Lady with the Little Dog," for example. Others are by hugely famous authors like Kundera and Nabokov, but not nearly as frequently anthologized (as far as I know). Those two stories, "The Hitch-Hiking Game" and "Spring in Fialta" respectively are probably the two best stories here excepting "The Dead," which is so perfect it's hard to believe. The more contemporary stuff I thought wa...more
Nancy
Opinions on the quality of the writing aside, the apparent definition of love by the compiler and the authors tells me more about them than I wish to know. Apart from a fraction of the stories, the stories have nothing to do with love and more to do with infatuation (if the reader is lucky), lust, narcissism, unadulterated selfishness, and a complete lack of awareness of the other person in their "relationship". Immaturity as a characteristic is a relief in these essentially unrelenting depressi...more
Adair
Jeffrey Eugenides, the editor of this collection of short stories begins by saying: “I offer this book as a cure for lovesickness and an antidote to adultery. Read these love stories not to confirm the brutal realities of love, but to experience its many variegated, compensatory pleasures.”

He takes the title from the poetry of Catullus, who writes of his mistress’s pet sparrow as a rival for her attention. When the sparrow dies and fortune seems to be going his way, he is really no better off; h...more
Brian Solem
This is, overall, a well-curated collection of love-related stories, or as Jeffrey Eugenides dubs it (to paraphrase), "stories about when the sparrow is alive, and stories about when the sparrow is dead." While most of the pieces address dead sparrows, I had to skip a few on account of general (as well as birthday) (oh, as well as pre-V-day) malaise. I'm glad I was reminded of authors like Raymond Carver, whose unsettling "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" addresses moribund domestic l...more
Emily
What an unusual collection of "love" stories! A few were along the lines of what is expected upon hearing the term "love story", but many of the contributions defied tradition in some respect. I especially enjoyed the entries by Chekhov, Moore, Dybek, de Maupassant, and Saunders. I was never a big fan of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, but The Lady With the Little Dog piqued my interest in reading more of his short stories. Dybek's We Didn't, though frustrating for the narrator, is thoroughly enjo...more
H.
It's hard for me to give this book an overall rating. It is a bittersweet collection full of the certain ache that only love can stir. There were some familiar stories I had read before, but most were new to me and all were good, with one being especially great.

These stories I had read before: Chekhov's "The Lady with the Little Dog," Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," Joyce's "The Dead," Nabokov's "Spring in Fialta," and Carver's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." All are great stories w...more
Jason
For the most part, anthologies blow. I only picked this one up because of the diversity of the authors. They put Faulkner, De Maupassant, and Chekhov on the same bill as Saunders, Munro, and Miranda July. Sounds like one of Dave Barry’s loony debacles to unite the literary world. And I’m not so far off. Eugenides in his introduction attributes his focus on love stories to “the Bono of Lit,” himself. But despite my petty contrivances, this is a damn good collection.

There are some stories that I h...more
Charlotte
I purchased this some time ago, and it's been waiting patiently on my bookshelves before being tossed into my suitcase as a last minute back-up holiday read. Upon starting it, I cursed myself for ignoring it for so long, because right from the opener (Harold Brodkey's "First Love and Other Sorrows") this collection is short-story writing at its best. As Jeffrey Eugenides explains in his introduction, he has not selected stories where the lovers are instantly fulfilled and live happily ever after...more
Angie Andrewes
When a short story compilation goes by the subtitle 'Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro' you might be excused for thinking that you already know who will be appearing on this list of usual suspects. This collection, edited by Jeffrey Eugenides, is anything but predictable, however - and that is its greatest strength. Sure, there are a few familiar names here - beyond Chekhov and Munro, there is Raymond Carver, Ovid, Nabokov, and Kundera - but there are plenty of unexpected names interspers...more
Kate
Apr 30, 2009 Kate rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who's ever been in love or at least thought about being in love
Recommended to Kate by: my mommy
Shelves: favorites
I FINALLY finished this book after like...over a year or something. A long time. And even though it took me so long, I recommend reading it the way I did - spaced out. This collection is so awesome that I wouldn't want the stories blurring together in my memory. They're all so different and amazing for very different reasons.

Out of all the stories in the book, there were probably only two that I didn't care for. And even those weren't terrible - they just didn't make me feel as much as the othe...more
Jenny Shipp
I am pretty sure this is the worst title of a book I have ever seen! I bought it to take with me to Italy. I wanted something I wouldn't finish in 2 days or even 2 weeks. I have been listening to a series of lectures on tape about Reading. He referenced Chekov's short story, The Lady With the Little Dog. I thought, OK, I'll get it and at least read THAT story. Well, It is probably a great story but I didn't love it like I loved Alice Munro's story, The Bear Came Over the Mountain, Harold Brodkey...more
Sarah
I was wavering toward a three star review until I read the last story, a gorgeous piece by Alice Munro in which a man deals with his wife's encroaching dementia.
The subtitle "great love stories" is deceiving, as might be expected in a McSweeney's anthology edited by Jeffrey Eugenides. There's love, but also lust and love lost and unrequited love. Not too many happy endings in the batch. There are a few classics, like Faulkner's "A Rose For Emily," alongside some future classics and some misfires...more
Carly
May 20, 2013 Carly rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
Because Jeffrey Eugenides takes his sweet time between writing incredible novels, when I heard there was a short story compilation edited by him it was purchased on my amazon account and being shipped to my house as fast as my fingers could go.

After reading the first few stories I began to get worried. I didn't bother to read what the theme of the compilation was when I purchased--his name was enough for me. But the first few stories (by some of the 'classics'--Faulkner, Joyce...) had me terrif...more
Ashley
Like so many of the other reviewers, I have such mixed feelings about rating this book. Some of the short stories sparkle. However, there were a few that left me a little disappointed, though not so much because of the quality of writing, rather because I felt that I didn't belong in this book.

My main problem with the collection isn't so much a criticism -- I felt like the whole time I was reading it, I was expecting something so very different than what was there. I suppose that's more my issu...more
Jess
"If [love] were endless, if it were on tap, love wouldn't hit us the way it does. And we certainly wouldn't write about it."

So says Eugenides in his lengthy foreword, explaining the title and what his book aims to achieve - to show the breadth of love depicted in short stories.

With the exception of the last two stories ('Innocence' by Harold Brodkey and 'The Bear Came Over The Mountain' by Alice Munro), I was captivated by these short stories and the sheer volume of experience shared within the...more
Joana
Mar 12, 2014 Joana is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Going to try and rate each story as I read them.

First Love and Other Sorrows, Harold Brodkey - loved the writing in this one, I felt like I could have followed these characters for a bigger chunk of time! It brilliantly captured the inadequacies of teenagedom and trying to figure out your place in the world.

The Lady with the Little Dog, Anton Chekhov - imperfect people in the wrong circumstances, living a (maybe) beautiful love story.

Love, Grace Paley - I really liked the style of Paley's writin...more
Meri
This eclectic mix of love stories was well selected. They range from sad to tragic, as most great love stories do, but they are all well written and insightful. Some are by authors, like Nabokov and Munro, that every literature major will recognize. Others by lesser known authors, like "Another, better Otto" by Deborah Eisenberg, held their own among such august company. Overall a very satisfying read.
Jade
As an author I love Jeffrey Eugenides, but I'm not sure I'd let him chose a book for me. A few of these stories were beautifully written, however, to say these are love stories you'd turn to again and again is wishful thinking. I must admit here though that I do, generally, hate short stories, so if you don't and want to try this book - check out someone else's review first.
Zhiqing
How could you not love this stellar collection of short stories. I was pleased to find Eileen Chang's "White Rose, Red Rose" included here. James Joyce's "The Dead" I have read a few times before and it just moved me every time I read it. This collection proves love stories could be very depressing sometimes!!! Great selection.
Peg
Thoroughly enjoyable collection of Love Stories. Have decided to buy a copy to be read at leisure. Not a book that I wanted to sit and read from cover to cover because it was due at the library. Want to be able to read a short story or two at a time and savor each one.
Tamara
As with all short-story collections, there were some totally amazing stories and some complete duds, but overall they were good picks. My favorites were Anton Chekov and William Faulkner. I don't remember the authors of the ones I mostly skipped over.
Janine
I wanted to love this collection, which contains some of my fave short story writers. Instead I overdosed on the collective pathos, cynicism, and love-gone-bad--too much for a winter's read. But really, what could I expect from sly Eugenides of MIDDLESEX fame as editor? Yes, each story offered artful writing and insights. As always, I can learn from the best. Still...

My favorite parts of this entire tome? Eugenides' light touch interpreting Catullus' love poem in the intro and Munro's THE BEAR C...more
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Jeffrey Kent Eugenides is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and short story writer of Greek and Irish extraction.

Eugenides was born in Detroit, Michigan, of Greek and Irish descent. He attended Grosse Pointe's private University Liggett School. He took his undergraduate degree at Brown University, graduating in 1983. He later earned an M.A. in Creative Writing from Stanford University.

In...more
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“A love story can never be about full possession. The happy marriage, the requited love, the desire that never dims--these are lucky eventualites but they aren't love stories. Love stories depend on disappointment, on unequal births and feuding families, on matrimonial boredom and at least one cold heart. Love stories, nearly without exception, give love a bad name.

We value love not because it's stronger than death but because it's weaker. Say what you want about love: death will finish it. You will not go on loving in the grave, not in any physical way that will at all resemble love as we know it on earth. The perishable nature of love is what gives love its importance in our lives. If it were endless, if it were on tap, love wouldn't hit us the way it does.

And we certainly wouldn't write about it.”
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“It is perhaps in reading a love story (or in writing one) that we can simultaneously partake of the ecstasy and agony of being in love without paying a crippling emotional price. I offer this book, then, as a cure for lovesickness and an antidote to adultery. Read these love stories in the safety of your single bed. Let everybody else suffer.” 4 likes
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