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Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story

Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story

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Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story

ratings:
3.5/5 (6 ratings)
Length:
391 pages
5 hours
Released:
Oct 2, 2012
ISBN:
9781250016188
Format:
Book

Description

A New York Magazine Best Book of the Year
A Huffington Post Best Book of the Year

Twenty contemporary authors introduce twenty sterling examples of the short story from the pages of The Paris Review.


What does it take to write a great short story? In Object Lessons, twenty contemporary masters of the genre answer that question, sharing favorite stories from the pages of The Paris Review. Over the course of the last half century, the Review has launched hundreds of careers while publishing some of the most inventive and best-loved stories of our time. This anthology---the first of its kind---is more than a treasury: it is an indispensable resource for writers, students, and anyone else who wants to understand fiction from a writer's point of view.

"Some chose classics. Some chose stories that were new even to us. Our hope is that this collection will be useful to young writers, and to others interested in literary technique. Most of all, it is intended for readers who are not (or are no longer) in the habit of reading short stories. We hope these object lessons will remind them how varied the form can be, how vital it remains, and how much pleasure it can give."—from the Editors' Note

WITH SELECTIONS BY
Daniel Alarcón · Donald Barthelme · Ann Beattie · David Bezmozgis · Jorge Luis Borges · Jane Bowles · Ethan Canin · Raymond Carver · Evan S. Connell · Bernard Cooper · Guy Davenport · Lydia Davis · Dave Eggers · Jeffrey Eugenides · Mary Gaitskill · Thomas Glynn · Aleksandar Hemon · Amy Hempel · Mary-Beth Hughes · Denis Johnson · Jonathan Lethem · Sam Lipsyte · Ben Marcus · David Means · Leonard Michaels · Steven Millhauser · Lorrie Moore · Craig Nova · Daniel Orozco · Mary Robison · Norman Rush · James Salter · Mona Simpson · Ali Smith · Wells Tower · Dallas Wiebe · Joy Williams

Released:
Oct 2, 2012
ISBN:
9781250016188
Format:
Book

About the author

The Paris Review was founded in 1953 and has published early and important work by Philip Roth, V. S. Naipaul, Jeffrey Eugenides, A. S. Byatt, T. C. Boyle, William T. Vollmann, and many other writers who have given us the great literature of the past half century. Some of the magazine's greatest hits have been collected by Picador in The Paris Review Book of People with Problems as well as The Paris Review Book for Planes, Trains, Elevators, and Waiting Rooms and The Paris Review Book of Heartbreak, Madness, Sex, Love, Betrayal, Outsiders, Intoxication, War, Whimsy, Horrors, God, Death, Dinner, Baseball, Travels, the Art of Writing, and Everything Else in the World Since 1953.


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What people think about Object Lessons

3.7
6 ratings / 6 Reviews
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  • (4/5)
    This book is similar in format to the 2000 anthology "You've Got to Read This" (highly recommended), and also to the New Yorker Fiction Podcast (highly, wildly, hysterically, frantically recommended). Twenty authors were asked to select a short story (by some other author) and to write a brief introductory comment for it. The stories were chosen from the archives of the noted literary fiction journal "The Paris Review."Being literary fiction, these stories don't have pat endings or pat plots or pat characters. They don't follow those writing rules you may have read about in "The Idiot's Guide to Writing Best-Selling Fiction for Dummies." They are sometimes mysterious, often quirky, at times experimental, and occasionally packed to the gills with WTF. I found a few of them too opaquely obscure to be enjoyable, and I expect some other readers will also have that experience (though perhaps tripping over different stories than I did). But other stories I found delightfully funny, wickedly clever, tear-jerkingly sad, or simply exquisite examples of the art of short fiction.The joy in an anthology like this is in discovery. Finding a story that's an amazing read; that makes you want to look further into the author's work, thus perhaps leading to many more amazing reads. For me, the discoveries included James Salter's compressed and brilliant "Bangkok" (evidently something of a classic in lit-fic short story circles, so I'm probably blowing my credibility by admitting that I hadn't read it before), Mary-Beth Hughes' wrenchingly painful "Pelican Song," and Mary Robison's just-plain-wonderful "Likely Lake."And so on. If you have any affinity for literary fiction short stories, I'm sure you will have your own discoveries as you read through this book. So quit wasting time with this review and buy the book and start reading. Wonderful discoveries and amazing reads await you.========Appendix:I have a gripe with how this book is promoted. On its front cover, its back cover, and in the product description here on the Amazon page, lists of authors are shown. But there's no indication as to whether the book has a story by any given author, or just one of the introductory comments. Thus, for example, despite the implied promise on the front cover you'll find no stories in here by Ann Beattie, Amy Hempel, Jonathan Lethem, or several other notable authors listed.But that was just a stupid and dishonest marketing decision (Is there any other kind of marketing decision?), and it doesn't affect the quality of the book's contents.You can use the Amazon page's "Look Inside" feature to see the book's table of contents, but as a quick alternative, here's a list of contributors, divided up into story-contributors and comment-contributors:Stories by: Donald Barthelme, Jorge Luis Borges, Jane Bowles, Ethan Canin, Raymond Carver, Evan S. Connell, Bernard Cooper, Guy Davenport, Lydia Davis, Thomas Glynn, Mary-Beth Hughes, Denis Johnson, Leonard Michaels, Steven Millhauser, Craig Nova, Mary Robison, Norman Rush, James Salter, Dallas Wiebe, Joy WilliamsComments by: Daniel Alarcon, Ann Beattie, David Bezmozgis, Lydia Davis, Dave Eggers, Jeffrey Eugenides, Mary Gaitskill, Aleksandar Hemon, Amy Hempel, Jonathan Lethem, Sam Lipsyte, Ben Marcus, David Means, Lorrie Moore, Daniel Orozco, Norman Rush, Mona Simpson, Ali Smith, Wells Tower, Joy Williams
  • (4/5)
    These are some very good short stories, but, at times, the commentary on each story by a current author of note, wasn't that insightful or useful. But, what the hell, if you have such superb short stories to fall back, you can cut these commenting authors some slack.
  • (5/5)
    I'm not much of a short story fan, but I wanted to force myself. I am glad I did. There is a wide range of excellent, compelling stories here from the realistic to the fantastic to the absurd. The introductions are of some value, causing the reader to focus on certain elements of each story, but the stories themselves make this a great, almost indispensable, anthology of contemporary short fiction. Of course, if you have already read these stories, then you probably don't need this anthology.
  • (3/5)
    Over sixty years, one might guess that a journal as prestigious as The Paris Review will have published one or two or twenty truly outstanding short stories. The twenty stories presented in Object Lessons were selected from The Paris Review’s back catalogue by twenty current practitioners of the short story form, each of whom introduces their selection with some reflections, or analysis, or generalized enthusing.The stories selected display significant range and variation, and most would easily be acknowledged as exemplars of what is possible with this form. Some will be well known already, such as Raymond Carver’s “Why Don’t You Dance”, or Jorge Luis Borges’ “Funes, the Memorious”. Others deserve to be better known, perhaps, than they are, such as Norman Rush’s “Lying Presences” or Mary Robison’s “Likely Lake” or Mary-Beth Hughes’ “Pelican Song”. And others will simply fascinate you, such as Denis Johnson’s “Car Crash While Hitchhiking” or Guy Davenport’s “Dinner at the Bank of England” or Dallas Wiebe’s “Night Flight to Stockholm”.So, you can rest assured that the story content of this collection will be well worth the price of admission. Less satisfactory are the short introductory essays by the nominal selectors of the stories. I get the impression that either the brief for these essays was not particularly clear, or that getting twenty young(ish) authors to follow a brief is rather like herding cats. Some treated the exercise like an exercise in a textbook on aspects of the short story. Others took their task to be championing an author they felt to be sorely neglected. Others just blurbed, as though they were composing an extended blurb for the back cover of a book that contained one and only one short story. So, the usefulness of these introductions is somewhat tempered.Least satisfying, even to the point of being annoying, is the patronising editors’ note at the outset, which is reproduced in part on the back cover. Apparently this collection is intended “for readers who are not (or are no longer) in the habit of reading short stories”. I’m not entirely certain how such a statement of intent is meant to motivate these non-readers of short stories to pick up this volume, or even purchase it. It certainly would not have motivated me. Rather, let’s just say that Object Lessons is a treat for those who love short stories, or for those who may come to love the form through encountering the stories herein. Recommended on that basis.
  • (2/5)
    It is with much sadness that I have to review this book so low. I was very excited when I saw this one on the new non-fiction shelves at my library. I thought oh, GREAT, a book for short story readers, writers and lovers of the craft. The thought that these authors had decades of stories to choose from made me think I'd read only the very best. Now, I know this is a very subjective thing, and everyone's tastes are different, but I cannot believe that these 20 stories were the ones chosen to showcase the beauty of the short story form. It was almost like the authors had a droll assignment and were like, well, which one stuck in my mind - even if truly bad. Many of the stories were weird, experimental ones (and not in a good way) from the 1960s and almost all were quite possibly the most odious humans to be found. There has to be one thread of likeability to pull of a story with human complexity to keep a reader interested. None of these kept me interested. It got to where I dreaded each one. I know The Paris Review is highly esteemed (and I even have a subscription!) but this collection is just dreadful. I have liked other Paris Review collections a whole lot more, so I am sure there are plenty of great stories to be read and re-read. These just were not those. Oh well, I did like two stories: 1) "The Palace Thief" by Ethan Canin; and "Emmy Moore's Journal" by Jane Bowles. Even the Carver selection surprised me. He has so many wonderful stories and "Why Don't You Dance" was picked. I also learned zip about writing short stories, which I love to do. I thought the introductions would be more helpful. Overall, just a real let down.
  • (3/5)
    The Paris Review is a highly regarded quarterly literary magazine. Started in 1953 by George Plimpton, The Review is well known for publishing the work of contemporary authors, both established and emerging. Each spring The Review awards prizes to distinguished authors published during the previous year. Examples of recipients are: John Ashbery, Joan Didion, Norman Mailer, Peter Matthiessen, George Plimpton, Barney Rosset, William Styron, Philip Roth and James Salter. Many of the authors of the Paris Review have received the National Book Award and other prestigious honors. Realizing the importance of The Paris Review, I decided it would be "good for me" to read "Object Lessons."For me, reading "Object Lessons" was like visiting a museum of modern art. I look at the work of famous artists like Jackson Pollack and wonder why it is great art and, more important, why is it art?I know that the twenty authors selecting and presenting the short stories in this anthology are all preeminent in their fields and the stories represent important work published in The Paris Review. However, most of the introductions and many of the stories left me questioning what I was missing. In fact, I almost gave up after reading Jorge Luis Borge's "Funes the Memorious." Others, like "Several Garlic Tales," by Donald Barthelme and "Dimmer," by Joy Williams, just left me cold.Most of the introductions did not shed much light on the craft or the reasons for the selection. Yet, I forged on and was rewarded by several very enjoyable, well-written short stories, including "The Palace Thief," by Ethan Canin; "The Beau Monde of Mrs. Bridge," by Evan S. Connell and "Night Flight to Stockholm," by Dallas Wiebe. The last story is truly amazing - shocking, horrible and amazing."Object Lessons," is a mixed bag. Many of the stories made me appreciate the shortness of a short story, but some were quite satisfying and delicious experiences. In my view, like art, it's personal.