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Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story (edition 2012)

by Lorin Stein, Sadie Stein (Editor)

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917132,676 (3.42)5
Member:CarolynSchroeder
Title:Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story
Authors:Lorin Stein
Other authors:Sadie Stein (Editor)
Info:Picador (2012), Paperback, 368 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*1/2
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Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story by Lorin Stein

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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 Williams

Comments 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 ( )
  KarlBunker | Apr 7, 2014 |
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. ( )
  jphamilton | Nov 8, 2013 |
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. ( )
  malrubius | Apr 2, 2013 |
Loved the works by Denis Johnson, Jane Bowles, Mary-Beth Hughes, Thomas Glynn, Ethan Canin, and Lydia Davis. Like, amazingly loved them. The introductions were uneven, and some of the other pieces just didn't rock my world or were already familiar to me . . . Which is to be totally expected in an anthology. ( )
  beckydj | Mar 31, 2013 |
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. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Feb 15, 2013 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lorin Steinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Stein, LorinEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Stein, SadieEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Alarcón, DanielIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barthelme, DonaldContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Beattie, AnnIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bezmozgis, DavidIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Borges, Jorge LuisContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bowles, JaneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Canin, EthanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carver, RaymondContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Connell, Evan S.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cooper, BernardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davenport, GuyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davis, LydiaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davis, LydiaIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eggers, DaveIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eugenides, JeffreyIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gaitskill, MaryIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Glynn, ThomasContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hemon, AleksandarIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hempel, AmyIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hughes, Mary-BethContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Johnson, DenisContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lethem, JonathanIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lipsyte, SamIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Marcus, BenIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Means, DavidIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Michaels, LeonardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Milhauser, StevenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Moore, LorrieIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nova, CraigContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Orozco, DanielIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Robison, MaryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rush, NormanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rush, NormanIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Salter, JamesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Simpson, MonaIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Smith, AliIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tower, WellsIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wiebe, DallasContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Williams, JoyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Williams, JoyIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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