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The Old Forest and Other Stories

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  238 ratings  ·  25 reviews
From the grand master of the American short story, these fourteen tales of domestic life in the South during the thirties and forties explore that extraordinary world of manners, expectations and unspoken understanding. The reader is drawn as if by magnetic force into a world rendered in breathtaking, painterly detail. These stories are marvelous entertainments, rich with ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published August 15th 1996 by Picador (first published 1985)
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Stephen Brooke
Peter Taylor is, admittedly, one of my favorite modern writers of the short story. Yes, the stories largely reflect a certain sort of upper-class Southerner of the past. Taylor wrote from what he knew.

That included a certain amount of racism and class snobbishness, both overt and implicit. The title story handles both deftly and insightfully, how they are woven into the lives of the characters and how they impact the internal life of the narrator.

Complex relationships are the bases of many of th
Matt Simmons
A four star book with some five-star stories. This is Taylor's standard fare; this is not, however, to say it's just the same old thing all over again. We have a wonderful mix of stories that were written in the early 1980s and collected for the first time here, combined with re-printings of some very strong stories from Taylor's earlier collections. "The Old Forest" is one of the three best stories I've ever read (behind "The Dead" and "The Beast in the Jungle"), and "A Long Fourth" is astoundi ...more
Taylor is the master of the unreliable narrator. At first, his stories seem like nothing more than "stories of manners" of aristocratic and polite Southern society from a vanished time, but then as the ironic narration begins to reveal itself, they become harrowing portraits of families hiding behind layers of suppressed emotions and beliefs. "The Prodigal Son" and "A Friend and Protector" are best examples from this collection. The latter has so many levels of irony it's impossible to know for ...more
I have to admit that I feel like a heel giving this book 2 stars and now writing these comments to explain why. Because I met Peter Taylor in graduate school, just a year or so before his death, and he was one of the few professional writers we met who was not a complete jerk. He was kindly, generous about answering our apprentice-level questions and eager to learn about our ideas from us rather than just lecture at us.

And though I am quite fond of the two opening stories in this collection ("Gi

These are stories that examine the South in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Taylor examines the nuances of familial and romantic relationships in a minutia, and with lazar precision. He is also gifted writing in first person narration, with narrators reflecting on a moment in history that changed them, often a complicated point of telling. Peter Taylor’s stories remind me a bit of Cheever, perhaps because they are both character studies encased in a specific kind of society, and told without frill. Perha
Good psychological stories, of people trying to understand other people, or beginning to understand them.

"I felt that I had never looked at her really or had any conception of what sort of person she was or what her experience in life was like. Now it seemed I would never know. I suddenly realized—at that early age—that there was experience to be had in life that I might never know anything about except through hearsay and through books."

In each story there are moments of obscure tension—should
Peter Taylor, from an upper class Southern family and a Harvard man, is the kind of writer one doesn't see that much of these days. If he transgresses, he does so politely, with an awareness of the sensibilities of the civilized white reader. His characters are mostly proper, well-off white Memphians, yet their lives are frequently involved with the less fortunate, particularly the black folks whom they employ. His prose is very nicely put together, with a good amount of realistic detail, along ...more
Some good ones here.
Nathanael Myers
A master short story writer.
Val Pehrson
Absolutely wonderful. My first encounter with Peter Taylor was with his short story "Venus Cupid Folly and Time." After that I read his first two novels and decided to pick up The Old Forest a few months later. Taylor is truly the Henry James of southern literature. There is no one better at conveying the social angst and insecurities of the wealthy and dying southern aristocracy. I would recommend this book to anyone.
Barbara Parker
Peter Taylor was a brilliant writer. The Old Forest was but one of this collection of short stories that brought to life the conflicting social strata -- and mores -- in the Memphis of the late 1930's. Taylor is a quiet writer who weaves a spell that the reader finds him/herself enveloped in. Although all the stories in this volume are excellent, The Old Forest is perhaps one of the finest short stories I have ever read.
Lexi Byers
Poignant stories of people and families trapped by a way of life that is no longer in step with the rest of the world; Taylor is the Southern version of John Marquand. Some may find his stories a bit musty, but they are beautifully written with an aching sensitivity to the destructive walls that we can build around ourselves even in the most intimate family relationships.
Excellent stories although I don't think I quite made it through all of them. It sounds odd but I remember thinking that I wasn't quite worthy of these stories -- that they were so well written that maybe I shouldn't be reading them -- something akin to not using the good furniture unless company is visiting. Don't know why I have that impression but there it is.
Jonathan Yardley of The Washington Post says, "There is not a finer work of short fiction in American literature than the title story of this collection, and others — “The Gift of the Prodigal,” most particularly — are not far behind it. The book that brought this incomparable writer out of obscurity."
Edwin Arnaudin
"The Old Forest" itself is pretty good, but not fantastic. I'd still like to read the rest of the collection, though, since I find the old Memphis setting and society to be interesting.
like a 1930's Memphis Updike, rich but mired in one context. Started (and stayed) slow, but it grew on me as a fairly masterful working of short-story form.
Jan 12, 2010 Rick marked it as to-read
Shelves: wishlist
Recommended by Jonathan Yardley in the Washington Post on 1 Jan. 2010 with title story described as "the greatest short story ever written by an American."
I feel that I now understand a bit more about the relationship between Southerners and their household help during the early part of the century.
Marla Glenn
If you've never had the pleasure of reading Peter Taylor's stories, you're in for a real treat.
Stories range over years 1940s to 1980s. Old-time, well-told tales.
These stories soar in the literary air. I love this writer.
Peter Taylor is by far my favorite short story writer.
peter taylor should be more read
I continue to adore the title story.
Excellent short stories ---
Christine marked it as to-read
May 24, 2015
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Peter Matthew Hillsman Taylor was a U.S. author and writer. Considered to be one of the finest American short story writers, Taylor's fictional milieu is the urban South. His characters, usually middle or upper class people, often are living in a time of change and struggle to discover and define their roles in society.
Peter Taylor also wrote three novels, including A Summons to Memphis in 1986, f
More about Peter Taylor...
A Summons to Memphis The Collected Stories of Peter Taylor A Woman of Means: A Novel In the Tennessee Country: A Novel In the Miro District and Other Stories

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