John Wiswell's Reviews > More Classic American Short Stories

More Classic American Short Stories by Garrick Hagon
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Dec 12, 12

Read from October 22 to December 12, 2012

I had a funny experience with this collection. I’ve been reading and editing so much contemporary Literary fiction recently that the opening story by Ambrose Bierce about heading to war and murder hit me at an unlikely angle. It drove nostalgia into me, for a time when short stories were plot-driven and focused on their goals. That it ended with a rickety, antiquated twist was charming; I could see where modern twists developed from.

Then the collection followed up with James Fennimore Cooper overwriting a non-story about watching an eclipse and meeting a guy on death row. It delivered no plot, went nowhere, and beat its narrative to death with adjectives about how impressive the eclipse was.

So much for nostalgia. People can write shorts well today (Hello, Etgar Keret), they simply don’t sample these voices. While these stories haven’t held up equally well, the collection closes with a sampling from O. Henry, which is naturally tight and bulletproof storytelling. The strongest impression was from one of the shortest entries, Kate Chopin’s “Regret,” about a single, childless woman who comes to reckon how her life works when she has to take care of another person’s children. It has a particularly strong voice and doesn’t dwell on the eponymous regret too long, rather relishing in brief and sharp characterizations.

My edition is only two CD’s long, a kindly gift from a friend that lasted most of a busy day’s driving between errands. The narration is all professional, with even Cooper rendered in theatrical voice.
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