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

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Overview

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....

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

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Overview

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

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A selection of fiction culled from the influential journal’s archive with a twist: writers often featured in the journal’s pages—Lorrie Moore, David Means, Ann Beattie, Wells Tower, Ali Smith, among others— offer brief critical analyses of their selections, elevating this book from a greatest hits anthology to a kind of mini-M.F.A. Sam Lipsyte’s take on Mary Robison’s “Likely Lake” is as much a demonstration of the economy of powerful writing as the story itself and Ben Marcus’s tribute to Donald Barthelme’s “magician... language” in “Several Garlic Tales” illustrates how learning can occur when one writer inhabits another writer’s mind to geek out over what they both love. If the essays are uneven, the stories almost never are, ranging from the widely read (Ethan Canin’s “The Palace Thief”) to the unexpected (Mary-Beth Hughes’s bleakly funny “Pelican Song”). The editors call this a guide for young writers and readers interested in literary technique, and the book achieves that purpose while also serving as a tribute to the role the Paris Review has played in maintaining the diversity of the short story form. The collection reminds us that good stories are always whispering into each other’s ears. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
“Hyperinteresting shoptalk from some of literary culture’s best shops, and best talkers.”

Kathryn Schulz, New York Magazine (Top 10 Books of 2012)

“The stories are indeed varied in their style, as the editors’ note promises, but many of them left me with the same feeling: devastation.”—The Christian Science Monitor

Object Lessons [is] my new favorite gift book.”—Elizabeth Taylor, The Chicago Tribune

“This thoughtful book will make you look at short fiction with new eyes.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“As the ‘Best American’ anthologies begin their annual take-over of bookstore shelf space this month, short story fans should look past those displays to find this collection curated from the archives of The Paris Review.”—The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“The editors call this a guide for young writers and readers interested in literary technique, and the book achieves that purpose while also serving as a tribute to the role The Paris Review has played in maintaining the diversity of the short story form. The collection reminds us that good stories are always whispering into each other’s ears.”—Publishers Weekly

“A compendium of The Paris Review’s short story hits, curated with the ambitious, aspiring writer in mind. … Jeffrey Eugenides’ discussion of Denis Johnson’s “Car Crash While Hitchhiking” captures that story’s heartbreak and serves as an essay on the virtues of the form itself. … A smart showcase of a half-century’s worth of pathways in fiction.”—Kirkus

Library Journal
The editors of this anthology asked 20 "masters of the genre" (among them Anne Beattie, Mary Gaitskill, David Bezmozgis, and Lorrie Moore) to select a favorite short story from the Paris Review archives from 1953 to the near present. In addition to being a treasure trove of great reading for short story lovers, the book showcases the richness of that historical source. Cross-generational selections include Alexandar Hemon's choice of Jorge Luis Borges's "Funes the Memorious," Wells Tower's choice of Evan S. Connell's "The Beau Monde of Mrs. Bridge," and Lydia Davis's choice of Jane Bowles's "Emmy Moore's Journal." The authors explain their choices in short introductions, themselves great reading, including David Means on Raymond Carver's well-known "Why Don't You Dance": "Carver opens in the kitchen, moves to action—pouring a drink—and then we follow as the narrator gazes out the window to see the bedroom suite in the front yard. In less than a beat, we're pulled into a deep, internal thought: his side, her side. All this in a little more than sixty words." Also included are several brilliant stories by lesser-known writers, like Guy Davenport (selected by Norman Rush) and Thomas Glynn (selected by Jonathan Lethem), that one hopes will lead to a resurgence of interest. VERDICT Like the Paris Review's revered author interview collections, this anthology of short stories selected by some of the great practitioners of our time is bound to be read and studied for years to come.—Sue Russell, Bryn Mawr, PA
Kirkus Reviews
A compendium of The Paris Review's short story hits, curated with the ambitious, aspiring writer in mind. This collection showcases a handful of the literary innovations the journal has championed since its founding in 1953: There are gnomic, comic experiments by Donald Barthelme, Jorge Luis Borges and Lydia Davis, and minimalist works by Mary Robison and Raymond Carver. But the magazine's heart is in domestic realism about the upper-middle class, and a few of the stories collected here are classics of the form. In "Bangkok," James Salter pits an estranged couple against each other, calibrating the dialogue to show how eagerly one wants to wound the other. Evan S. Connell's "The Beau Monde of Mrs. Bridge" inhabits the mind of a WASP aristocrat who's both charming and blinkered to the wider world. And Ethan Canin's "The Palace Thief" is a stellar exploration of morality and noblesse oblige, told through a prep school headmaster's remembrance of a mendacious student. Each story is preceded with a brief appreciation by a well-known admirer--Sam Lipsyte introduces Robison, Dave Eggers introduces Salter, and so on. The introducers were clearly instructed to avoid high-flown encomiums and instead discuss the specifics of why each story is effective, so the book is rich with shoptalk. And though some intros ought to have spoiler alerts, most are engaging in their own right--Jeffrey Eugenides' discussion of Denis Johnson's "Car Crash While Hitchhiking" captures that story's heartbreak and serves as an essay on the virtues of the form itself. As if to comfort readers who came to the book striving for literary fame, the collection closes with Dallas Wiebe's "Night Flight to Stockholm," a comic riff on literally giving an arm and a leg to score a Nobel Prize in literature--or just publication in The Paris Review. A smart showcase of a half-century's worth of pathways in fiction.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250005984
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 10/2/2012
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 636,417
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Established in 1953, The Paris Review is America’s preeminent literary magazine.

Lorin Stein is the editor of The Paris Review.

Sadie Stein is deputy editor of The Paris Review. They are not related.

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Read an Excerpt

Daniel Alarcón

on

Joy Williams’s Dimmer

 

 

Joy Williams is one of those unique and instantly recognizable storytelling voices, capable of finding the mysterious and magical heart within even the most ordinary human acts. Her stories begin in unexpected places, and take surprising turns toward their eventual end. She doesn’t describe life; she exposes it. She doesn’t write scenes, she evokes them with a finely observed gesture, casually reinterpreted to provide maximum, often devastating, insight:

He had straddled the baby as it crept across the ground as though little Mal were a gulch he had no intention of falling into.

The baby in this startling image is Mal Vester, the unlucky and unloved protagonist of “Dimmer.” He is a survivor, but there is no romantic luster to his suffering. Mal is rough, untamed, stricken, desperate, and alone. His father, who never wanted him, dies in the first sentence; his mother, the only person who loved him without restraint, dies in the second. Her death haunts this beatiful, moving story, right up until the very last line; but what keeps us reading to the end is the prose, which constantly unpacks and explains Mal’s unlikely world with inventive and striking images. Williams has done something special: she makes Mal’s drifting, his lack of agency, narratively compelling. Life happens to Mal; it is inflicted upon him, a series of misfortunes that culminate in his exile. (A lonelier airport has never appeared in short fiction.) Mal never speaks, but somehow, I didn’t realize it until the third time I’d read “Dimmer.” I knew him so well, felt his tentative joy and fear so intimately, it was as if he’d been whispering in my ear all along.

 

Copyright © 2012 by The Paris Review

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