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The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford

3.73  ·  Rating Details  ·  945 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
"The appearance of these stories in one volume is an event in our literature. To have built up so distinguished a collection, each story excellent in its own way and each an original departure in relation to the others, is a triumph." --Guy Davenport, New York Times Book Review "Miss Stafford's craftsmanship and her mastery of the short story form are by now so well known ...more
Published May 1st 1992 by Farrar Straus & Giroux (T) (first published 1969)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Christopher MacMillan
What an unusual bunch of short stories Jean Stafford has come up with!

First and foremost, to give credit where it is due, this is because Stafford's writing-style is so remarkable -- each sentence is rich with intelligent words and beautiful phrases strung together in a prose that is overflowing with symbolism and meaning, and which often surprises you with a sharp, unexpected uppercut of laugh-out-loud wit, right in the middle of the most dire and dark tales.

Sure, much of these stories are den
May 06, 2013 Adrian rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, book-club
I'm just not a fan. She writes more about state of mind, emotions, and point of view type themes than she does actual people and events. The common problem I had with her stories was the overall feeling that nothing ever happened. Her characters needn't be named because they aren't nearly as important as whatever "point" she's trying to make about what they're going through (typically about the pressures of being a woman in this time frame), and ultimately the stories are boring. There's also ve ...more
Jan 31, 2012 Ebirdy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-but-unowned
Although I tend to gravitate toward big, meaty novels when I look for something to read, I am in awe of short story writers. To be able to weave an entire story in only 10 or 15 pages (sometimes less) that leaves the reader feeling completely satisfied is just amazing.

Jean Stafford is a master at this - she can sketch a complete scene is just a few well-chosen words. She also had me reaching for the dictionary, which I love - nothing like adding a few new words to my Scrabble vocabulary! Staffo
Jul 12, 2009 amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Her stories remind me of a crisp autumn day, where everything is beautiful but twisted and cold and dying at the same time. It’s my favorite kind of weather. Most of all I love “Children Are Bored On Sunday," which makes me miss autumn in New York. The season, not the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad movie.
Jul 31, 2008 Michaela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Short story lovers. Short story haters.
Shelves: on-hold
Writing short stories well is a rare and precious skill, and Stafford is one of the best. Ever.

There's only one real dud in this volume, but the rest are so spectacularly good, you'll probably forgive it, as I did.

Be careful not to read Stafford's stories while also reading a blowhardy, overwordy novel. You'll come to resent the novel's obese clumsiness, even if it's the best novel ever written in the history of the universe. That's how taut and sharp these stories are, like perfectly cut little
Jan 26, 2009 Rhiannon rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Before I read this, I thought Jean Stafford just wrote stories about society parties where vapid people say horrendous things and a select few see through them and are branded as outsiders (and narrators). And those are her best stories. But she also wrote about kids growing up in the West and all sorts of social awkwardness found outside of society parties, too. A good 75% of these stories are best described as "painful," but they're pretty wonderful, too.
Oct 29, 2015 Abby rated it really liked it
“Of course it could not have happened like this: falling in love is not an abrupt plunge; it is a gradual descent, seldom in a straight line, rather like the floating downward of a parachute.” (from "Caveat Emptor")

Jean Stafford: A forgotten American treasure. These are charming stories, bursting with vitality. I wonder why she has more or less faded into oblivion; it is not fair.
Jul 14, 2008 Jessica rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone and anyone
EVERYBODY SHOULD READ JEAN STAFFORD. She is amazing. This is hands down the best collection of short stories I've ever read! My new favorite book of 2008.
Randi Minetor
Dec 26, 2012 Randi Minetor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is so beautifully written that the short story format became strangely unsatisfying. So many of the stories barely get started before Stafford ended them, leaving me feeling a little abused—I had just gotten to know these characters, and their tale was over. I couldn't help but hearken back to my creative writing classes in high school and college, when we were taught that a story has a beginning, a middle and an end—a conflict presented and resolved to the reader's satisfaction. Many ...more
Updated review: 3/16/2008

Well, I've read about 80% of these stories by now, and I think it's time to move on. As the two paragraphs below suggest, I think the stories are well-written, but suffer from an almost clinical detachment on the author's part. So, only three stars.

Interim review:

I've been dipping into this collection sporadically over the last month or so, and my reaction is ambivalent. I admire these stories a lot - insert appropriate verbiage along the lines of 'tightly constructed',
Zac Frank
I read Stafford's story, "Children Are Bored On Sunday" when it was featured by the New Yorker from the archive and completely fell in love with it. Because of that, I decided to try this larger collection of her work that included "Children". The rest of the stories I read were fine but failed to move me in the same way. It's still worth reading if only for this gem: "She wanted them to go together to some hopelessly disreputable bar and to console one another in the most maudlin fashion over a ...more
Scott Cox
I recently re-read one of Jean Stafford's stories, "A Country Love Story." I must say that the story was very disturbing, but extremely well-written. The haunting symbolism (the sleigh) and relationship nuances worked very well together.
Feb 23, 2012 Ben rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulitzer
Pulitzer 1970 - About half-way through the book I looked up what I could about Jean Stafford - as I suspected she had a very tough life. This collection of stories is, by and large, not uplifting. Lots of negative things happen to the heroine's of these books (who I'm sure are based on Ms. Stafford herself). However reading about her tragic life (a roommate that committed suicide, 3 marriages, drug and alcohol addiction) put the writing in context.
That being said she does a great job of a comple
Jul 30, 2015 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very satisfying collection. Explores loneliness, displacement, social position, etc. Most stories leave you thinking. Some a little O. Henry-esque.
Feb 07, 2012 Beth rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. I had never heard of Jean Stafford until I read Dangerous Muse, about Caroline Blackwood. Serendipitous! These were sharp, cutting period pieces, where everyone is drinking orangeade and eating lettuce sandwiches, suffering from tuberculosis and catarrh. If I had to compare them to something, it would be The Stories of John Cheever, which is high praise indeed. I expected to like the New York stories the best, but I actually preferred the Western stories, full of people trying to make ...more
Apr 22, 2012 Allison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
She is one of the finest short story writers ever. It's difficult to fathom that I've never heard of her before (it was Saul Bellow's letters that introduced me to her--beleaguered wife of Robert Lowell). This probably should be a 5 star book but there were enough stories that while beautifully written I still couldn't connect with....something a little magic realist about some of them (which I just don't like). My favorites were the ones written from the point of view of a child. She can be hil ...more
Dec 31, 2009 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: beloved, pulitzers, 2009
Stafford quickly endeared me to her style, despite a few fairly overused phrases that she favored. There were of course a few stand outs, and a few that I practically skimmed; but over all Stafford touches on loneliness and isolation, while keeping broad in terms of environments. The American-ness of this collection (ah, the Pulitzers) reminded me somewhat of Fitzgerald, in it's celebration of differences (even when it seemed that Stafford wasn't comfortable in these abnormalities and eccentrici ...more
Roxanne Russell
I kept putting off reading this book because I was literally judging it by its cover. It was published by a University Press and looked interminably boring. But it was excellent.
Stafford tells a range of stories in different settings from Europe to the American West. Her vocabulary is so extensive that I filled up my "look it up" index card/bookmark that I use with every new book. These stories were excellent in a similar manner to John Cheever's in that she is a true observer of human nature.
May 10, 2009 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I actually read a book of short stories by Stafford entitled "Bad Characters" Couldn't find it on here, so I figured that this was close enough. I read it because I remembered reading "Bad Characters" back in school, and I loved it. So I wanted to revisit it. Still love it, but the other stories were a bit rougher to get into. Her style is just too detached and brittle for me.
Jan 16, 2012 Marianna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a nice FULL collection but there are so many stories-30- that it became hard to read. I took this book out from the library, so I wanted to read it and return it. Short story collections really aren't meant to be read that way. She did kick my vocabulary butt and I liked that very much. First time in years I had to read with a dictionary at my elbow.
Detached retina.
Aug 17, 2012 Denise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I know everybody knows Jean Stafford, but I still feel like she's not recognized enough and not taught enough in schools. These are some of the best stories ever written.
Dec 21, 2013 Drew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read my full review here:
Sep 19, 2012 Melinda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These are memorable, well written stories. Reading the entire volume you gain an appreciation for Stafford as a visionary of her time.
Click the link below to check the SCPL catalog:
Jun 13, 2013 Holly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Holly by: "At the Zoo" is quoted in Strunk and White's Elements of Styl
Stafford's a favorite. I've been reading this in small doses since December. Too much Stafford will drive you to depression.
Jun 23, 2011 Rsossel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stafford's characters are amazing. I find myself laughing aloud at their mannerisms and speech. Excellent book.
Jul 29, 2010 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In my twenties these stories really stayed with me. I am setting out to read them again, now that I am 51.
Aug 27, 2010 Bill marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
completed her short story "CHILDREN ARE BORED ON SUNDAY" 8/27/10; The plight of Intellectual rube's in NYC
As heard on the New Yorker fiction podcast (specifically, the story "Children Are Bored On Sunday").
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Jean Stafford was an American short story writer and novelist, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford in 1970.

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“To her own heart, which was shaped exactly like a valentine, there came a winglike palpitation, a delicate exigency, and all the fragrance of all the flowery springtime love affairs that ever were seemed waiting for them in the whisky bottle. To mingle their pain their handshake had promised them, was to produce a separate entity, like a child that could shift for itself, and they scrambled hastily toward this profound and pastoral experience.” 7 likes
“She wanted them to go together to some hopelessly disreputable bar and to console one another in the most maudlin fashion over a lengthy succession of powerful drinks of whiskey, to compare their illnesses, to marry their invalid souls for these few hours of painful communion, and to babble with rapture that they were at last, for a little while, they were no longer alone.” 2 likes
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