Billie Pritchett's Reviews > The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction

The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction by Richard Bausch
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The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction is a great place to start to get a sense for the landscape of the short story historically and across continents. Sure, you might take issue with some inclusions (Why this story? Why this author?) and some exclusions, but there is plenty here to learn from and get exposed to, and I know that I made some discoveries having read this book.

Here are some of my favorite discoveries:

"Anna on the Neck" made me want to read more Anton Chekhov. A poorer woman fears marrying a bourgeois oafish men but then the table's turn.

In "A Wall of Fire Rising" by Edwidge Danticat, a Haitian father wants to escape his rigid society, even if it's to the detriment of his family.

Stuart Dybek's "We Didn't" is basically a perfect story. A young man explains how someone's death got in the way of his first sexual encounter and haunted him thereafter.

In Ralph Ellison's "King of the Bingo Game," one struggling black man stakes everything on a cash prize at a bingo hall.

"The Conscience of the Court" by Zora Neale Hurston made me cry. A black woman, a servant of a white family avoiding its debt, stands trial in this story for beating a debt collector who comes to take away the white family's poverty. It's not clear whether the story will become tragedy or comedy, but when you reread you realize how smartly Hurston laid it out from the beginning to tip in one direction. It really is a beautiful, moving story.

Jhumpa Lahiri is awesome. Her story, "Hell-Heaven," is told from the perspective of an Indian-American girl whose mother suffers her love for another man in silence.

D.H. Lawrence is a weird sybarite, and that comes through in both the stories here, "The Horse Dealer's Daughter," and "The Rocking-Horse Winner." I won't even spoil them. Lawrence is sensuous without being vulgar, sincere without being sentimental.

Doris Lessing's "To Room Nineteen" made me want to hunt for all her stories and anything else she's written. The story is terrific but terrifically odd. A rich woman in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) decides she wants time away from her family and so decides to rent a room in a cheap hotel where she can sit and be alone with her thoughts. That's it. But the story winds up opening all sorts of avenues. Her life feels meaningless and she's wrestling with that.

(Real quick, John L'Heureux's "Brief Lives in California" and Amy Tan's "Rules of the Game" are stories I loved, but unfortunately for me these writers are primarily novelist and so I couldn't follow up and check out more of their stories, though we're lucky to have these.)

Bernard Malamud's "Angel Levine" is about finding angels among ordinary people. Malamud's stories are terrific. So are the stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer, as you'll see with "Gimpel the Fool" about a rabbi who suffers as many trials as Job does and who must learn to accept his many misfortunes.

Guy De Maupassant is a classic master of the short story. Two of his stories are collected in this anthology and, although it could be my failure, I only liked one of his stories but liked it enough to get his collection. The story is called "An Adventure in Paris," about a woman who wants to have a wild time in sensuous Paris.

There are some stories I'm leaving out, but I'll finish here with two. John Steinbeck's "The Chrysanthemums" is as good as any story you'll ever read and so is Edith Wharton's "Xingu." The former is about a woman who feels a kind of awakening after a new encounter in the countryside and the latter is about the pretense of communities of intellectuals, so-called.

Oh, and honorable mention goes to Bobbie Anne Mason who writes about my hometown and the town adjacent where she grew up. The story in here by her is "Shiloh," and it's a fine story.

What follows is a list of further reading, collections of short stories I discovered after reading these authors and the above stories:

-- Anton Chekhov, Selected Stories
-- Edwidge Danticat, Krik? Krak!
-- Stuart Dybek, I Sailed with Magellan
-- Ralph Ellison, Flying Home and Other Stories
-- Zora Neale Hurston, The Complete Stories
-- Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies
-- Doris Lessing, Stories
-- Bernard Malamud, The Complete Stories
-- Bobbie Ann Mason, Shiloh and Other Stories
-- Guy de Maupassant, Complete Original Short Stories
-- Isaac Bashevis Singer, The Collected Stories
-- John Steinbeck, The Long Valley
-- Edith Wharton, Complete Works of Edith Wharton
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
November 13, 2018 – Finished Reading
November 14, 2018 – Shelved
November 21, 2018 – Shelved as: short-stories

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Denise (new)

Denise E. norton!!!!! i used to be an intern there back in my wee post college days. is this one light enough to pick up with one hand, or was it kindle?


Billie Pritchett Really, you worked there? Did you like it? I have the big fat paperback of this. You can hold it with one hand but it's a hefty volume.


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