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Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  7,457 ratings  ·  544 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.

A bestseller in its own right and a must-have for fans of the #1 bestselling author David Sedaris, a collection of his favorite short fiction.

David Sedaris is an exceptional reader. Alone in his
Paperback, 344 pages
Published August 1st 2005 by Simon & Schuster (first published March 29th 2005)
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Average rating 3.68  · 
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They put David Sedaris's name all over this thing. It wasn't until after I had checked it out that I realized it was not just Sedaris and it was not his usual non-fiction storytelling. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is kind of like that feeling when you pick up a glass expecting it to be full and it is actually empty; a bit disorienting at first, but I eventually realized what I was dealing with and settled in.

The stories were okay. Basically just low motivation, day to day kind of
Mar 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Miranda Reads
Mar 01, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: audiobook
I just can't connect to these stories.

Review to come.

Audiobook Comments
Read by the author - love it when this happens!!

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Happy Reading!
Dec 05, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Karen Germain
May 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 15, 2007 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
rachel  misfiticus
Jan 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Feb 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A really fabulous collection of stories from masters of the craft; Hempel, Baxter and Wolff's are my favorite. The audio version is extremely well done - Sedaris reading "Gryphon" was the best of the bunch. Highly recommended.
Briane Pagel
Nov 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Because I'm contrarian by nature, I once came up with a theory as to why you can judge a book by its cover. The theory is this: if I like a cover, I will probably like the book. The reasoning behind it is: someone had to design a cover and to do that they had to at least know something about the book. They then distilled that feeling about the book into an image, and they liked the image (or they wouldn't have created it). If I like the image, I am at least somewhat likely to like the thinking ...more
Feb 01, 2011 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Jun 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, shortstories
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 ...more
Alisa Muelleck
Feb 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Nov 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Mar 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is such a good collection of short stories! Immediately upon finishing the book, I went back and reread my favorites. I spent most of the book almost-but-not-quite crying. So many feelings!
Amy "the book-bat"
This was not what I expected. Of course, I didn't read the description of the book, which would explain why. I saw this listed under David Sedaris on Overdrive and thought it was more of his essays, but instead it is a collection of short stories compiled and edited by him. It was still good and entertaining, but in a different way than a collection of just Sedaris's writing would be.
Sep 05, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Elizabeth A
Mar 30, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stories, 2016, audio
I'm not a short story fan, so you might be justified in wondering why I read this one. I blame George Eliot. I kept trying various things to pull me out of the Grand Canyon sized reading slump that Middlemarch abandoned me in; I could clearly see the rim but seemed unable to get up there.

I'm a Sedaris fan, and his writing almost always makes me smile, so why not try this collection of short stories curated by him? I read somewhere that this audiobook is an abridged collection - it only has 5 of
Adrianne Mathiowetz
Oct 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first four stories in this collection are stunning examples of why I don't write fiction; the language, the occurrences, the essential sense of place and time--all are there. While I knew of most of the writers of stories in this collection, I had never taken the opportunity to explore their work. Thank you, David Sedaris, for putting together this collection and introducing it in such a way that I actually laughed out loud during my morning commute after a week away from work; no mean feat, ...more
Nov 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Let me begin by saying that I only picked this book up at the store because of the name on the cover: David Sedaris. I like a lot of his writing, so I figured I might like what he likes, as well. The trouble is, I don't love most short story collections. So I knew this would be a challenge.

Did Sedaris' collection pass?

Well, I enjoyed his introduction. I also enjoyed the way the stories connected by sometimes obvious, sometimes tenuous threads. Oftentimes I struggle to understand why stories
AmberBug com*
Jan 09, 2009 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Aug 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was ok
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.
Jun 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Listened to the audiobook, which only had 5 of the stories, but I loved them all so much, I'm hesitant to read the rest in print because I seem to have such bad luck with short stories. Once again, thanks David Sedaris!
Jul 20, 2016 rated it liked it
This was such an odd collection. I really liked 2 of the stores but also really wasn't a fan of the other 3 (I believe). Also I listened to this on audiobook as I do for all of David Sedaris' work and the quality was terrible. Can't say I would recommend this.
Andrea Hurt
Jun 04, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Nov 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Oh my good heavens to mercy what an amazingly entertaining book. Fantastic writing from many different voices, very refreshing.
Feb 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
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!
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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
“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.” 1 likes
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