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

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  392 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
ANew York Magazine Best Book of the Year
A Huffington Post Best Book ofthe Year

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 Pa
ebook, 368 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Picador (first published August 7th 2012)
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Oct 03, 2012 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 19, 2012 Stuart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Vincent Scarpa
Jun 29, 2013 Vincent Scarpa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting collection. Wish that the introductory notes from the authors were a bit longer/more detailed, though some were pretty insightful. Favorites here were: "Dimmer," from Joy Williams, "Bangkok," from James Salter, "Pelican Song," from Mary-Beth Hughes, "Except for the Sickness," from Thomas Glynn, and the superbly weird "Night Flight to Stockholm," by Dallas Wiebe.
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
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
Jonathan Crowl
Nov 07, 2012 Jonathan Crowl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 01, 2012 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stories
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 ...more
Feb 05, 2014 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 16, 2012 Sunil rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The idea sounds appealing, whether to the writerly-types or sheer literary-minded. 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 relatively obscure (Salter, Hughes, etc.). Each story is preceded by a short i ...more
Dec 20, 2012 malrubius rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
I'm not much of a short story fan, but I wanted to force myself. I am glad I did. There is a wide range of excellent, compelling stories here from the realistic to the fantastic to the absurd. The introductions are of some value, causing the reader to focus on certain elements of each story, but the stories themselves make this a great, almost indispensable, anthology of contemporary short fiction. Of course, if you have already read these stories, then you probably don't need this anthology.
Jan 21, 2013 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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' ...more
Feb 15, 2013 Erica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 08, 2013 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent stories selected (albeit two not to my taste); insightful, and not-pompous lead-in discussions. A huge fan of short stories, I have read hundreds, hundreds, including a couple dozen editions of The Paris Review, and am very glad to have been given this collection as a birthday present. For instance, I generally find Lydia Davis difficult to read, but her Flaubert tales here held. And Steven Millhauser's Flying carpets. I soared.
Mar 06, 2013 Allie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
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 ...more
Mar 18, 2013 Ruth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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
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 ...more
Caroline Barron
Jun 18, 2013 Caroline Barron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For those of you who, like me, for so long through short stories were a poor excuse for a novel, you need to read this! Having read many short stories of late, I can say that this is a fantastic collection - mostly. There are one of two stories that I couldn't skim through fast enough, but on the whole this is brilliant. My pick of the book is Australian writer Joy Williams' 'Dimmer'. It almost made me want to put down my pen and never attempt to write another word, she was so good!
Jun 27, 2013 May rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Sydney Avey
I discovered this book tucked away on a shelf in Bloomsbury Books in Ashland, OR. What a fun find; like taking a mini writing seminar. Each story pulled from the files of The Paris Review is prefaced by the writer who chose the story, telling us why the story is worthy of being included in this anthology.

This is a good paperback to own. I like the rough cut edge and the self cover that folds over like a book jacket.
Mar 09, 2014 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Apr 21, 2014 zni rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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
Unevenness is an inevitable characteristic of short story anthologies, not 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
May 17, 2015 Nicole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
David Means on Raymond Carer's "Why Don't You Dance," effectively encapsulating what a short story means, I think:

"Her voice is distinctly bright, lively, and sharp with judgment. She has passed on to the green pastures and, presumably what she feels is an enlightened grip on reality. Her comments pass retroactively through the previous slice of narrative, casting light on the scene in the yard while, again paradoxically, throwing everything forward into the the infinite silence and open just ah
Sep 30, 2015 Anjan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Joel Goh
Jun 11, 2015 Joel Goh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like discovering authors I've never read before and some of the authors here were new to me. A mixed bag of stories with some hits and some misses. I particularly enjoyed(in order of appearance):
- Leonard Michaels - City Boys
- James Salter - Bangkok
- Bernard Cooper - Old Birds
- Raymond Carver - Why Don't You Dance
- Ethan Canin - The Palace Thief
- Evan S. Connell - The Beau Monde of Mrs Bridge
- Dallas Wiebe - Night Flight to Stockholm

The Borges and Barthelme stories seemed to be weak choices co
To be honest, I was a bit disappointed with this collection. Not because of the qaulity of the stories - which were all fine even if not all my taste. But because I thought the introductions of these stories would be more indepth on why these stories worked so well. Instead, the introductions worked like extended blurbs, with authors just being enthusiastic about something they read without giving much interesting new perspective on the story that followed. Missed opportunity.
B. Mason
I truly enjoyed the format of this anthology and it exposed me to some writers I had never encountered before such as Jane Bowles and Mary-Beth Hughes, who I believe have some of the strongest stories in this anthology. The introductions are at times helpful to an interpretation or at least expectation of the stories to follow but they are wildly variant. Dave Eggers outlines a couple key points about the strengths of James Salter's story "Bangkok" that serves as a benchmark, at least to me, at ...more
Balaram Briant
May 02, 2016 Balaram Briant rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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Jayne The Payne
Sep 10, 2016 Jayne The Payne rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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Founded in Paris by Harold L. Humes, Peter Matthiessen, and George Plimpton in 1953, The Paris Review began with a simple editorial mission: “Dear reader,” William Styron wrote in a letter in the inaugural issue, “The Paris Review hopes to emphasize creative work—fiction and poetry—not to the exclusion of criticism, but with the aim in mind of merely removing criticism from the dominating place it ...more
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