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Short Stories by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Short Stories by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

by Rodger L. Tarr

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"[Rawlings is] among the first ten American story writers today."—The New Republic, 1940

"She will help to make the American short story a living part of our literature."—Boston Transcript, 1940

"One of the two or three sui generis storytellers we have."—Atlantic Monthly, 1940

In The


"[Rawlings is] among the first ten American story writers today."—The New Republic, 1940

"She will help to make the American short story a living part of our literature."—Boston Transcript, 1940

"One of the two or three sui generis storytellers we have."—Atlantic Monthly, 1940

In The Yearling, her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of 1939, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings wrote the bleak but noble life of the Florida Cracker into American hearts.  She secured her popularity as a storyteller and her status as a major voice in American literature in 1942 with the instant success of Cross Creek, the autobiographical vignettes that highlight her ability to create short fiction.

 Still, no assessment of the full range and power of her talent has been possible without this volume of all twenty-three of her published short stories, collected together here for the first time.  Most appeared in Scribner's Magazine, The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine and the Saturday Evening Post.

 Scribner's printed Rawlings's first short story, "Cracker Chidlings," in 1931, just three years after she moved to an orange grove in the backwoods of north-central Florida.  With a mix of frontier morality, ingenuity, and humor, the story introduced readers to Fatty Blake's squirrel pilau and 'Shiner Tim's corn liquor.  Just as important, it brought her work to the attention of Maxwell Perkins, the famous Scribner's editor, who recognized her talent for storytelling and her eye for detail and who encouraged her to capture human drama in more "Cracker" stories.

 Though Rawlings was at home in a man's world, much of her short fiction is told in a woman's voice.  She is merciless in "Gal Young 'Un" as she bores in on two women, both competing for the same man and struggling for their dignity.  The story, published in Harper's, was awarded the O. Henry Memorial Prize for best short story of 1932 and was made into a prize-winning movie in 1979.  Her most autobiographical story, "A Mother in Mannville," describes the sense of personal loss endured by a childless woman writer.

 Often at her best combining satire and sarcasm, Rawlings wrote a series of comic stories that featured Quincey Dover, her alter ego.  "She is, of course, me," Rawlings wrote, "if I had been born in the Florida backwoods and weighed nearly three hundred pounds."  One story Quincey narrates, "Benny and the Bird Dogs," reportedly amused Robert Frost so much that he fell off a rocking chair in a fit of uncontrollable laughter while listening to Rawlings read from it.

 Like others who wrote about the South, Rawlings grappled with the problem of how to portray honestly, yet without racism, the situation and the language of her neighbors.  Her empathetic description of blacks and her portrayal of the Florida Cracker contribute a valuable perspective on twentieth-century American culture in transition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Admirers of Rawlings's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Yearling and her other novels should welcome this first collection of all but two of her short works, most originally published in the New Yorker , the Saturday Evening Post and Scribner's Magazine between 1928 and 1953. The stories, some only a couple of pages long, are presented in order of publication and come together piece by piece like the blocks of a simple homespun guilt. From the early ``Jacob's Ladder'' to ``A Mother in Mannville'' and ``Fish Fry and Fireworks,'' Rawlings sharpened her storytelling skills and deepened her understanding of the backwoods world of her Florida neighbors and the African Americans who worked for them. She had a knack for setting each scene with a few homey details, putting the reader right inside the story. Dialect, colorful but always intelligible, was used to great effect. In ``Cracker Chidlings'' Fatty Blake critiques his neighbor's Brunswick Stew: `` `I was born and raised in Floridy and I'm pertickler. I don't want no squirrel eyes lookin' at me out o' my rations!' '' Tarr's introduction provides essential background to set these stories in the context of the time and Rawlings's efforts to face her own feelings about race. ``Black Secret,'' her last work on the subject, won an O. Henry Prize, as did ``Gal Young Un.'' Illustrations. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Although Rawlings is best known for her 1939 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Yearling , which is largely considered to be a children's book, she wrote a substantive body of short stories that highlight her powers of observation, ironic wit, and keen eye for detail. These stories are steeped in the locale of the Florida backwoods, yet the themes are universal, and although Rawlings was not a feminist, her female characters are feisty and do not suffer lightly indignities imposed by men (for example, in ``Gal Young Un''). Rawlings was a purveyor of justice, which is evident in her treatment of male characters and her sensitivity to the plight of blacks. In 1940, she attained the height of her success, yet there is still appeal for modern readers in her focus on the triumph of the human spirit. Patrons of literature collections in public and academic libraries will find this work of interest.-- Mary Ellen Beck, Troy P.L., N.Y.

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University Press of Florida
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5.87(w) x 8.76(h) x 1.23(d)

Meet the Author

Rodger L. Tarr is distinguished professor of English at Illinois State University.  He is the author of numerous books, most recently Thomas Carlyle:  A Descriptive Bibliography; of articles about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings; and, with Carol A. Tarr, of a critical introduction to the 1992 Fiftieth Anniversary Edition of Cross Creek.

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