Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules” as Want to Read:
Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  5,703 ratings  ·  424 reviews
A must-have for the fans of the #1 bestselling author of Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris, a collection of his favorite short fiction from Flannery O'Connor to Tobias Wolff.
ebook, 352 pages
Published April 4th 2005 by Simon & Schuster (first published March 29th 2005)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Mar 20, 2008 Katie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: human beans with heart muscles in working order
Shelves: short-stories
I gave this book to a friend for her birthday a few years ago and she mentioned that while she loved the book, it was proving to be life threatening. She was reading while walking, while eating, while riding her was an accident waiting to happen.

The thing about this collection of short stories (chosen, not authored, by David Sedaris) is that every time I finished a story I would think, "Oh definitely. That is my favorite short story EVER." Then, I would read the next story and find tha
Dec 05, 2007 Grace rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: not Sedaris fans...
Shelves: 2007
As a big fan of David Sedaris, let me just say that I am very very glad he has not been able to better emulate his writing heroes. Because for a very talented storyteller, the man has appalling taste in stories.

Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules is a Sedaris-edited short story collection. Sedaris makes clear in the book's introduction that these are stories by authors he particularly loves, and that he aims to be as great as he thinks they are. Oh dear.

The version I listened to is abri
rachel  misfiticus
I am very happy that I borrowed this book.
Although the proceeds go to 826nyc, and that is good, the book itself is a waste of time.
The stories within are either ones I have read many times before (i.e."Revelation" Flannery O'Connor*) or are stories that made my eyes contort from boredom (i.e. "The Garden Party" Katherine Mansfield).
Sarah Vowell's epilogue explaining 826nyc is so poorly constructed I closed the book after 3 sentences.

*I really like O'Connor, but I was hoping for authors who ar
Don't get freaked out when you see two stars next to David Sedaris' name...he didn't write the book, he just edited it. But, that's why I was so surprised. It's an interesting collection and not at all what you might assume Sedaris would pick as his favorite short stories. Actually, a lot of them were about death, so not his usual fun topics like midget guitar teachers or christmas whores. But death, or almost dying. So yeah, this is actually a pretty morbid collection of stories. If I could ind ...more
A friend gave me this, as we are both Sedaris fans. None of this is his work (save the introduction, which was on par with most of his better essays), but I decided to trust his judgment and try something new. As with most collections, the stories were of varying quality.

Where the Door is Always Open and the Welcome Mat is Out by Patricia Highsmith, read by Cherry Jones: Mildred is rushing around frantically to prepare for her sister Edith’s visit. The reader was great, but the story itself was
I'm not a regular reader of fiction, but when I find an author I enjoy, I tend to read the entire collection of his/her work. I love David Sedaris's humor and writing, so purchased this along with several of his other books. When I learned that this was "just" a collection of his favorite short stories instead of his own words, I was disappointed. That feeling of disappointment continued through about half of the stories in Hercules, some of which I had to force myself to finish, and one of whic ...more
Karen Germain
A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to see David Sedaris speak at UCLA. In my haste to make sure that I had read all of Sedaris' books, I bought " Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules" on my Kindle. It turns out, that this a collection of Sedaris' favorite short stories and he edited the compilation.

I am not the slightest bit disappointed that this wasn't a collection of Sedaris stories, because the selections he picked are fantastic. In fact, this is probably the best collection of shor
Adrianne Mathiowetz
Dec 06, 2008 Adrianne Mathiowetz rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Adrianne by: Angie
I've been putting off this review, because it's *hard* to review a bunch of completely unrelated stories by authors who also have no connection (beyond "David Sedaris likes them" -- and for the record, the man has motley tastes).

Overall I really enjoyed the book, but there's no basic summary I can give, no message to take home. It was all over the map, from Katherine Mansfield to Tobias Wolff to Dorothy Parker to Jhumpa Lahiri.

A collection like this, of equally strong writing from a diverse co
Checked this collection out in audiobook form from the library for the 5 hr drive up to my family cottage at the end of July. I'd seen it listed in the library newsletter as a New Arrival and since I enjoy Sedaris' work so much, I thought I'd give it a try. Note that the audiobook version is abridged & contains only 5 of the stories from the print edition. I now own a paperback copy as a pass-along from my Mom.

With this book, Sedaris selected examples of writing he has been astounded by, in
This is a compilation of David Sedaris' favorite short stories by literary greats such as Alice Munro, Flannery O'Connor and Dororthy Parker, just to name a few. With a crowd like this, you can expect stories that will leave you ever so slightly unsettled, such as Tobias Wolff's "Bullet in the Brain" and Lorrie Moore's troubling tromp through a pediatric cancer ward in "People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk." The stories seem to gather eccentric value as the b ...more
One of the reasons that I love David Sedaris is that he shares my love of reading and books. In his introduction, Sedaris reflected about books and wrote that, in his opinion, "a good one would take me out of myself and then stuff me back in, outsized, now, and uneasy with the fit. This led to a kind of trance that made the dullest work, the dullest life, bearable." And he claimed that "I believed, and still do, that stories can save you." Exactly! David Sedaris wrote the introduction to this bo ...more
I've listened to a lot of David Sedaris over the years, and I think he writes fantastic prose and memoirs, occasional raunchiness notwithstanding. I don't know that we are of the same mind in many things, but I will say we are of the same mind when it comes to what short stories we like. I honestly loved almost every single story he chose for this collection, and those I didn't love I certainly respect. Since he is so open about so many aspects of his life, it's not a stretch to see what drew hi ...more
I hate to admit this but I bought it because I thought the stories might be funny. I should have not been so foolish for David Sedaris, the editor, is both funny and heartbreakingly sad himself and so it is with the stories. I really liked his selections and cried at one or two or three, maybe four, possibly five. The stories are written by acknowledged masters as Flannery O'Connor, Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Munro and Amy Hempel. Additionally, he included some authors I had never read and some I ...more
AmberBug **
I love David Sedaris and I went to see him live... he recommended some books to read and then I found this collection he compiled. I am not a huge fan of short stories. I like them only if the story completes itself and isn't all about symbolism and themes. A few stories I loved and some I couldn't get into (... borderline hated). If you like short stories, David Sedaris is a great author with excellent taste and I am sure this compilation will not disappoint. If not, go into it realizing it's w ...more
I'm a huge fan of several writers in this collection, but they are NOTHING like David Sedaris. This book left me feeling sex crimed - which is what happens within its pages during one of the worst stories ever put on paper. And though I love Lorrie Moore, I didn't care for her tale about the baby pooping blood. Like the rape tale, it felt too sensational without a very strong concept.

Love Sedaris, but after this I would never take reading recommendations from him.
I had the audio book for this one and since it was under 3 hours and short stories, I tackled it. David Sedaris is just awesome, so awesome, I'm happy to listen to him reading other people's work.

Color me surprised then when I see that the printed book version had many more short stories than the audio book. Now I feel like I missed something.

The audio book covered

"Where the Door is Always Open and the Welcome Mat is Out" by Patricia Highsmith, read by Cherry Jones

"Bullet In the Brain" by Tobias
With David Sedaris as the editor, I was expecting more of the stories to be humorous, and I was surprised to find so many stories that were, frankly, depressing. That didn't prevent me from thoroughly enjoying the collection, though. I suppose it would be difficult to go wrong with that collection of authors. Very enjoyable.
Andrea Hurt
The great thing about a collection of short stories is that you get a variety of styles and stories. If you don't like one, skip it. Some of the writing in this collection is wonderful, even if others weren't my cup of tea. But overall, I liked it a lot
I should have known Sedaris would have great taste in short much more entertaining than picking up the American's Best Short Stories of the Year book!
Barbara Sibbald
These are some of the stories that inspired David Sedaris to begin writing. I understand why. It's a quirky collection with some of the usual stars (Half a Grapefruit, by Alice Munro and The Garden Party, by Katherine Manfield), but also some quirky understudies: the high-anxiety depicted in Where the door is always open and the welcome mat is out by Patricia Highsmith; the hilarious agony aunt in The Best of betty by Jincy Willet and the horror of Joyce Carol Oates tale The girl with the blacke ...more
Ireland Fuller
Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules in David Sedaris's personal selection of his favorite short stories. The volume encompasses the full range from classics by Dorothy Parker and Flannery O'Connor to comtemporary selections by Jhumpa Lahiri and Tim Johnston. I was captivated by these stories. I relished "Revelation" by Flannery O'Connor as I marvel at her ability to dive into the depths of the human soul. I discovered new (to me) authors through the raw, emotional power of "Interpreter ...more
Oh my good heavens to mercy what an amazingly entertaining book. Fantastic writing from many different voices, very refreshing.
Ira Therebel
This is a book I had for my first level English course in college. I just decided to read it all. And it was a pretty good read. I must say I was surprised to see it categorized as humor by so many! Yes, there sure were some mildly humorous stories but mostly I took the theme of the book to be more about darkness of humanity and life.

And for the most I enjoyed it. It is hard to find a short story collection where I like every story, so in this one there were as well some that I was pretty bored
I've read a couple books by Sedaris, and found his writing readable and humorous; and since I am always interested to see what other people read and what others find interesting, the idea of reading a book of short stories that Sedaris picked and liked was appealing. Short stories, to me, is such an impressive feat of writing - to gain a reader's attention quickly, to make the reader care about characters and plot when they know its going to end quickly - I think is challenging. The short storie ...more
Joshua Gross
All of the stories in this collection are interesting and wonderfully written. I was going to write a review on every story in the book, but then I decided that was ridiculous. I didn't have much to say about a lot of stories, and some stories stood out to me more than others. I really enjoyed "Where the Door is Always Open and the Welcome Mat is Out," by Patricia Highsmith. I just found it fascinating, reading about this character Mildred and her actions in preparation of her sister's visit. I ...more
It took a long time for me to appreciate the short-story form of writing. I can still remember the book that changed my mind--I was in middle school, and it was a collection of stories by commonly-banned authors, including my beloved Judy Blume. I'm so glad I came around in time to find this book.

Sedaris has curated an assortment of his favourite short works by other authors, ranging from the classic to the contemporary, humorous to horrifying, and realistic to fantastical. Some of the stories a
A stellar collection. Summary: Borrowing the book's name from an Adriaen van der Werff painting, "CHILDREN PLAYING BEFORE A STATUE OF HERCULES" is David Sedaris's attempt to share his passion for short stories with a wider audience-and his enthusiasm is contagious. "The authors in this book are huge to me, and I am a comparative midget, scratching around in their collective shadow. 'Pint sized Fanatic Bowing Before Statues of Hercules' might have been more concise, but people don't paint things ...more
The stories may be fab, but I am rating it based on my own faulty expectation that there would be laughter, joy, that sort of thing. Even when telling a maudlin, uncomfortable, or tragic tale, Sedaris can squeeze some humor or goodness out of it. This is his gift. The first story I read, the hippie teacher one, I liked. Then came the Jhumpa Lahiri story that hit me with shock and pain just as deeply as it did when I first read it. Like a kick in the gut. A gorgeous, devastating kick in the gut. ...more
Becca Loo
it was good. i don't really feel like writing a review because this app that i've grown to love is going to be deleted soon and there isn't another that is as easy and as awesome to use. so my reviews will now go directly to my word processor which in a way is good cause then i'll actually be forced to make them grammatically correct. they'll be a lot less fun though. oh well. this was one of the best collection of short stories i've read in long time. it's funny cause even though sedaris didn't ...more
It is usually difficult to rate a collection of short stories. I mean, you like some, love others, and possibly despise one or two. In this case I would say that I didn't hate any of them, although there are a few that were only so-so. Perhaps the best way to review this book is to say that overall I definitely enjoyed it. And then maybe to list the stories that I loved:

Gryphon by Charles Baxter (quirky and crazy)

Half a Grapefruit by Alice Munro (love the quiet determination)

Where the Door Is Al
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Book of Liz - Acting Edition
  • Jenny and the Jaws of Life: Short Stories
  • The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2010
  • Guess Again: Short Stories
  • Who Do You Love: Stories
  • Radio On: A Listener's Diary
  • The Best American Short Stories 2005
  • Take Five: Four Favorite Essays Plus One Never-Been-Seen Essay
  • Fraud: Essays
  • PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009
  • My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro
  • The World of Apples
  • Fierce Pajamas: An Anthology of Humor Writing from The New Yorker (Modern Library Paperbacks)
  • The Collected Stories
David Sedaris is a Grammy Award-nominated American humorist and radio contributor.

Sedaris came to prominence in 1992 when National Public Radio broadcast his essay "SantaLand Diaries." He published his first collection of essays and short stories, Barrel Fever, in 1994. Each of his four subsequent essay collections, Naked (1997), Holidays on Ice (1997), Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000), Dress Your Fa
More about David Sedaris...
Me Talk Pretty One Day Naked Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim When You Are Engulfed in Flames Holidays on Ice

Share This Book

“Now the room has the contours and atmosphere of all rooms in which people stay awake talking. The fluorescent light is grainy, staring. The clutter on the kitchen table—ketchup bottle, sagging butter dish, tin of Nestlé Quik, the rowdy crudded ashtray—the world is narrowed into these, a little universe that the eyes return to again and again. Now it begins, the sorting and testing of words. Remember that words are not symbols of other words. There are words which, when tinkered with, become honest representatives of the cresting blood, the fine living net of nerves. Define rain. Or even joy. It can be done.” 2 likes
“You spend hours wrestling with yourself, trying to keep your vision intact, your intensity undiminished. Sometimes I have to stick my head under the tap to get my wits back. And for what? You know what publishing is like these days. Paper costs going up all the time. Nothing gets printed unless it can be made into a movie. Everything is media. Crooked politicians sell their unwritten memoirs for thousands. I’ve got a great idea for a novel. It’s about a giant shark who’s possessed by a demon while swimming in the Bermuda Triangle. And the demon talks in CB lingo, see? There’ll be recipes in the back.” 0 likes
More quotes…