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The Penguin Book of Modern British Short Stories (1989)

by Malcolm Bradbury (Editor)

Other authors: Kingsley Amis (Contributor), Martin Amis (Contributor), Beryle Bainbridge (Contributor), J.G. Ballard (Contributor), Julian Barnes (Contributor)29 more, Samuel Beckett (Contributor), Elizabeth Bowen (Contributor), Angela Carter (Contributor), John Fowles (Contributor), William Golding (Contributor), Graham Greene (Contributor), Ted Hughes (Contributor), Kazuo Ishiguro (Contributor), Gwen John (Contributor), B.S. Johnson (Contributor), Doris Lessing (Contributor), David Lodge (Contributor), Malcolm Lowry (Contributor), Adam Mars-Jones (Contributor), Ian McEwan (Contributor), Edna O'Brien (Contributor), V.S. Pritchett (Contributor), Jean Rhys (Contributor), Salman Rushdie (Contributor), Alan Sillitoe (Contributor), Clive Sinclair (Contributor), Muriel Spark (Contributor), Graham Swift (Contributor), Emma Tennant (Contributor), Dylan Thomas (Contributor), Rose Tremain (Contributor), William Trevor (Contributor), Fay Weldon (Contributor), Angus Wilson (Contributor)

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432458,416 (3.57)5
This anthology contains gems from 34 of Britain's outstanding contemporary writers. It includes stories of love and crime, stories touched with comedy and the supernatural, stories set in London, Los Angeles, Bucharest and Tokyo.

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As I was reading a masterful short story by Salman Rushdie, he was being stabbed on stage. I had just talked about how certain authors in this collection (and in literature, generally) operate on a different level than others who are still very good, then I read about the contemptible attack. I hope he will recover as soon and as completely as possible.

I found this to be a very strong collection, with absolutely no weak points, and some real gems. Each short story was at least fine, but some were simply outstanding:

Samuel Beckett: Ping - I have a soft spot for the nonsense which of course does have sense and such a strong rhythm in all its minimalism that it is positively enjoyable

Dylan Thomas: The Burning Baby - nightmarish as its title, intense and skilful, with all due respect, trying to purge my memory of it

Ted Hughes: The Rain Horse - a tad less nightmarish but still very much in that territory, also very intense and skilful

Salman Rushdie: The Prophet's Hair - this is where I had to pause to acknowledge how certain authors produced works that were not better but on a completely different level of quality than others, and those others were also very good. (for me, authors of this different quality include Auster, Nabokov, Esterházy) I intend to use this in ESL lessons as I did with the following one.

Kazuo Ishiguro: A Family Supper What a twist! I loved how he built up the readers' expectations very clearly towards one final outcome and then provided an utter anticlimax. This is a short story I already used with my C1-level students. As I was making photocopies for them to read, I accidentally dropped the last page, which gave me the idea to make them write their own ending to the story. (Some loved the idea, others detested it.) I only gave them the last page when they handed in their versions. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and would definitely repeat with other groups.

I really appreciate the following as well:
Graham Greene: The Invisible Japanese Gentlemen - another one up for ESL lessons
William Golding: Miss Pulkinhorn
Alan Sillitoe: The Fishing-boat Picture
Doris Lessing: To Room Nineteen
Muriel Spark: The House of the Famous Poet
John Fowles: The Enigma - started as a detective story but turned out to be something even better
Malcolm Bradbury: Composition - with its 3 different endings
Beryl Bainbridge: Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie - very powerful
Ian McEwan: Psychopolis - turning so suddenly from a constant mood, and capturing the shock perfectly
Julian Barnes: One of a Kind
Clive Sinclair: Bedbugs ( )
  blueisthenewpink | Jan 3, 2024 |
If you're amused by stories centred on women's breasts (David Lodge) or about compulsive masturbation (Martin Amis), if you'd be intrigued by an author's language deficit ( Malcom Lowry), i if you think writing is nothing without hard-gained metaphors and the personal touch* (example from Angela Carter biut a fair few of the stories have those qualities) , if you would welcome reminders that even the most competent woman can be a victim imprisoned by a man's sharp glance and failure to share housework (Fay Weldon's tale of elective martyrdom) and that Chinese people dress in silly clothes and are incapable of speaking English properly** (Malcolm Bradbury), well, then, this is the book for you.
I read at least the first few pages and far more often all of each sory but gave up on one because it was unreadable and on several others because the writing inspired no confidence in the author and/or because they bored me so. Only one of the stories seemed in any way original (and that, not by a British author), some were enjoyable, and none was memorable.

Malcom Bradbury was also the editor of this book. And as should be apparent from the quote below he obviously shares the not-uncommon casual English attitude of superiority to other peoples. Not surprising then that he he appropriates non-British authors from a formerly-occupied country for the anthology. To call Beckett, Edna O'Brien, William Trevor British is not just wrong: it's wrong and offensive.

*Of walking in a city at night: 'And I moved through these expressionist perspectives in my black dress as though I was the creator of all and of myself, too, in a black dress, in love, crying, walking through the city in the third person singular my own herione, as though the world had stretched out from my eye lke spokes from a sensitized hub that galvanized all to life when I looked at it.'

** 'The little oriental who met him stands there, in shortie pyjamas. "You must close lindow . Water coming . . . into my loom. . . Also, offplint of article for loo to lead." ' ( I must acknowledge though that 'loo' for 'you' though is admirable writersmanship,)
  bluepiano | Sep 7, 2022 |
University of Edinburgh, 1997.
  housewives-at-home | Feb 14, 2007 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bradbury, MalcolmEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Amis, KingsleyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Amis, MartinContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bainbridge, BeryleContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ballard, J.G.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barnes, JulianContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Beckett, SamuelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bowen, ElizabethContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carter, AngelaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fowles, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Golding, WilliamContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Greene, GrahamContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hughes, TedContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ishiguro, KazuoContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
John, GwenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Johnson, B.S.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lessing, DorisContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lodge, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lowry, MalcolmContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mars-Jones, AdamContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McEwan, IanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
O'Brien, EdnaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pritchett, V.S.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rhys, JeanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rushdie, SalmanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sillitoe, AlanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sinclair, CliveContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Spark, MurielContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Swift, GrahamContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tennant, EmmaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Thomas, DylanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tremain, RoseContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Trevor, WilliamContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Weldon, FayContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wilson, AngusContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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This anthology contains gems from 34 of Britain's outstanding contemporary writers. It includes stories of love and crime, stories touched with comedy and the supernatural, stories set in London, Los Angeles, Bucharest and Tokyo.

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