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The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction / Edition 8

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Ann Charters has an acute sense of which stories work most effectively in the classroom and knows that writers, not editors, have the most interesting and useful things to say about the making and the meaning of fiction. Instructors look forward to every new edition of her bestselling anthology to see what stories her constant search for new fiction and neglected classics will turn up. To complement the stories, Charters includes her signature innovation: an array of the writers’ own commentaries on the craft and traditions of fiction. For in-depth, illustrated studies of particular writers or genres, her Casebooks provide unparalleled opportunities for discussion and writing. The new ninth edition features many very recent stories and commentaries by up-and-coming writers, a new Casebook on the important genre of Magical Realism, and expanded coverage of close reading.

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Editorial Reviews

This collection of 124 stories includes classics, modern work, and contemporary selections by writers such as Raymond Carver and Louise Erdrich, plus translations of important non-English works. It features biographical notes for each story, 75 commentaries, many by the authors themselves, and casebooks on three contemporary writers. Separate appendices outline a history of the short story, discuss elements of fiction, review how to write a college-level paper on a story, and offer a glossary of literary terms. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312596231
  • Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's
  • Publication date: 7/16/2010
  • Edition description: Eighth Edition
  • Edition number: 8
  • Pages: 1856
  • Sales rank: 62,116
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Ann Charters

Ann Charters received her B.A. at Berkeley and her Ph.D. at Columbia. She first met Kerouac at a poetry reading in Berkeley in 1956, and compiled a comprehensive bibliography of his work in 1967. A professor of English at the University of Connecticut, she is also the editor of Selected Letters of Jack Kerouac and the Portable Kerouac Reader, and the author of Beats and Company: Portrait of a Literary Generation.


It's nearly impossible to come across a significant study of Jack Kerouac without encountering the name Ann Charters. A foremost Beat scholar, she wrote the first biography of the On the Road author and has studied his milieu for over 20 years. Charters also has a personal connection to back up her scholarly interest in the Beats: When she was a junior at University of California, Berkeley, her roommate set her up on a date with Peter Orlovsky. Charters was actually in love with her professor, Sam Charters, whom she later married; as for Orlovsky, he was Allen Ginsberg's boyfriend. Charters said in a magazine interview, "My roommate...said to me, 'I'll fix you up with a wonderful boy who's your own age.' This was Peter Orlovsky, before he was living with Allen, and who considered 'Howl' to be the greatest poem since Whitman's Leaves of Grass."

Though the romance didn't pan out, Charters' love of the Beats endured, and she became the genre's anthologist of note. After completing biographies of Kerouac and the futurist poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, Charters assembled the now-classic The Story and Its Writer, a collection of exemplary short stories and commentary by and about authors such as Raymond Carver and Anton Chekhov. In addition to her taste and eye for good literature, one of Charters' strengths is her ability to incorporate the author's voice. She got Kerouac's cooperation on her biography of him and included the authors' own analyses of their work in The Story and Its Writer.

This acumen probably reached its apotheosis when Charters edited a collection of Kerouac's letters. By that time, a second Kerouac biography, Memory Babe by Gerald Nicosia, had been released, and as Charters told the Alsop Review, "my book was, I thought, in comparison, woefully inadequate." She continued, "That's why I took on the editing, because I saw with the letters that it could be a way of giving a biography through my selection, which emphasizes Jack's life as a writer.... If I were to write a biography -- and I will not rewrite my first biography -- well, I've done that with this two-volume set."

Though she has focused on Kerouac in her work, Charters has also done a lot to improve the understanding of Beat literature in general, not only by editing well-known anthologies such as The Portable Beat Reader but also by writing introductions and essays in editions of major works. For a British anthology called The Penguin Book of the Beats (which follows the structure of The Portable Beat Reader), she explained her approach in a publisher's interview: "I decided I wouldn't just alphabetically arrange my favorite Beat writers or put them in big sections, like Poetry, Fiction, Essays. I would organize it historically, so that someone who didn't know much about Beat writing could come in and use the book as an introduction to the whole field and have some guidelines."

Charters is appealing as an editor and anthologist because she embraces, rather than trying to distance herself from, her personal connection to the era she covers. With The Portable Sixties Reader, her most expansive collection yet, she continues to illuminate a crucial literary era.

Good To Know

Charters has taught at Brown University, Columbia University, and the University of Connecticut, where she has been a professor of English since 1974.

Charters on Kerouac's detractors: "Most people are, at heart, good people, but fairly conservative. They really like to think that there's a tried-and-true way of writing, and you sit and write 13 revisions. And when they hear that he's bragging that he's written it in one draft they kind of get their hackles up." (online zine interview)

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    1. Hometown:
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 10, 1936
    2. Place of Birth:
      Bridgeport, Connecticut
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of California, Berkeley, 1957; M.A., Columbia University, 1959; Ph.D., 1965

Table of Contents

*indicates new selection



Introduction: The Story and Its Writer

Part One: Stories

Chinua Achebe, Civil Peace

Sherman Alexie, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

*Isabelle Allende, An Act of Vengeance

Sherwood Anderson, Hands

Margaret Atwood, Happy Endings

*Isaac Babel, My First Goose

James Baldwin, Sonny’s Blues

Toni Cade Bambara, The Lesson

Russell Banks, Black Man and White Woman in Dark Green Rowboat

Lynda Barry, San Francisco [graphic story]

*Donald Barthelme, At the Tolstoy Museum

*Ann Beattie , Janus

Alison Bechdel , From Fun Home: "Old Father, Old Artificer" [graphic story]

Ambrose Bierce, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

*Roberto Bolano, Jim

*Jorge Luis Borges, The South

Tadeusz Borowski , This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen

*T. Coraghessan Boyle, Birnam Wood

Ray Bradbury, August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains

Albert Camus, The Guest

*Alejo Carpentier, Journey to The Seed

*Angela Carter, The Kiss

Raymond Carver, Cathedral

Raymond Carver, A Small, Good Thing

Raymond Carver, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

Willa Cather, Paul’s Case

John Cheever, The Swimmer

Anton Chekhov, The Darling

Anton Chekhov, The Lady with the Little Dog

Kate Chopin, Désirée’s Baby

Kate Chopin, The Story of an Hour

Sandra Cisneros, Barbie-Q

Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

*Julio Cortázar, Axolotl

Stephen Crane, The Open Boat

Edwidge Danticat, Night Women

*Lydia Davis, Blind Date

Junot Díaz, How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie

*Edith Maud Eaton (Sui Sin Far), The Story of One White Woman Who Married a Chinese

*Edith Maud Eaton (Sui Sin Far), Her Chinese Husband

*Larry Eigner, Act

Ralph Ellison, Battle Royal

*Nathan Englander, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

Louise Erdrich, The Red Convertible

William Faulkner, A Rose for Emily

William Faulkner, That Evening Sun

*F. Scott Fitzgerald, Winter Dreams

*Janet Frame, Two Sheep

*Carlos Fuentes, Pain

*Mary Gaitskill, The Other Place

Gabriel García Márquez, A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

*William Gass, A Fugue

*Dagoberto Gilb, Love in L.A.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper

Nikolai Gogol, The Overcoat

*Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Minister’s Black Veil

Nathaniel Hawthorne, Young Goodman Brown

Ernest Hemingway, Hills Like White Elephants

Zora Neale Hurston, The Gilded Six-Bits

Zora Neale Hurston, Sweat

Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle

Shirley Jackson, The Lottery

Henry James, The Real Thing

Sarah Orne Jewett, A White Heron

Ha Jin, Saboteur

*Denis Johnson, Work

James Joyce, Araby

James Joyce, The Dead

Franz Kafka, A Hunger Artist

Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

Etgar Keret, Not Human Beings

Jamaica Kincaid, Girl

*Nora Krug, Kamikaze [graphic story]

Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies

D.H. Lawrence, Odour of Chrysanthemums

D.H. Lawrence, The Rocking Horse Winner

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

*Doris Lessing, To Room 19

*Clarice Lispector, The Smallest Woman in the World,

Jack London, To Build a Fire

Katherine Mansfield, Miss Brill

Bobbie Ann Mason, Shiloh

Guy de Maupassant, The Necklace

Herman Melville, Bartleby, the Scrivener

*Steven Millhauser, Flying Carpets

*Lorrie Moore, Referential

*Alice Munro, Age of Faith

*Haruki Murakami, UFO in Kushiro

*Vladimir Nabokov, Signs and Symbols

*Santiago Nazarian, Fish Spine

Joyce Carol Oates, The Lady with the Pet Dog

Joyce Carol Oates, Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried

Flannery O’Connor, Everything That Rises Must Converge

Flannery O’Connor, Good Country People

Flannery O’Connor, A Good Man Is Hard to Find

Frank O’Connor, Guests of the Nation

Tillie Olsen, I Stand Here Ironing

*Daniel Orozco, Orientation

*Julie Otsuka, The Children

Cynthia Ozick, The Shawl

ZZ Packer, Brownies

Grace Paley, A Conversation with My Father

Grace Paley, Mother

Octavio Paz, My Life with the Wave

Edgar Allan Poe, The Cask of Amontillado

Edgar Allan Poe, The Fall of the House of Usher

Edgar Allan Poe, The Tell-Tale Heart

*Katherine Anne Porter, Maria Concepción

W.S. Porter (O. Henry), The Gift of the Magi

Annie Proulx, Job History

*Jamie Quatro, 1.7 To Tennessee

Philip Roth, The Conversion of the Jews

Joe Sacco, From Palestine: Refugeeland [graphic story]

Marjane Satrapi, From Persepolis: The Veil [graphic story]

*George Saunders, Sticks

*Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, A Brief Encounter with The Enemy

Leslie Marmon Silko, Yellow Woman

Art Spiegelman, Prisoner on the Hell Planet: A Case History [graphic story]

John Steinbeck, The Chrysanthemums

Amy Tan, Two Kinds

Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilych

Jean Toomer, Blood-Burning Moon

John Updike, A&P

*Luis Alberto Urrea, Father Returns From the Mountain

*Helen Maria Viramontes, Miss Clairol

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Harrison Bergeron

Alice Walker, Everyday Use

*David Foster Wallace, Everything Is Green

Eudora Welty, A Worn Path

Edith Wharton, The Other Two

John Edgar Wideman, newborn thrown in trash and dies

William Carlos Williams, The Use of Force

*Tobias Wolff, Bullet in the Brain

Tobias Wollf, Say Yes

Virginia Woolf, Kew Gardens

Richard Wright, The Man Who Was Almost a Man

Part Two: Commentaries

Chinua Achebe, An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s "Heart of Darkness"

Sherman Alexie, Superman and Me

Paula Gunn Allen, Whirlwind Man Steals Yellow Woman

Sherwood Anderson, Form, Not Plot, in the Short Story

Margaret Atwood, Reading Blind

Matthew C. Brennan, Plotting against Chekhov: Joyce Carol Oates and "The Lady with the Dog"

Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren, A New Critical Reading of "The Fall of the House of Usher"

Ann Charters, Translating Kafka

John Cheever, Why I Write Short Stories

Anton Chekhov, Technique in Writing the Short Story

Kate Chopin, How I Stumbled upon Maupassant

Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Private History of the "Jumping Frog" Story

Stephen Crane, The Sinking of the Commodore

Ralph Ellison, The Influence of Folklore on "Battle Royal"

Richard Ellmann, A Biographical Perspective on Joyce’s "The Dead"

William Faulkner, The Meaning of "A Rose for Emily"

Richard Ford, Why We Like Chekhov

Carlos Fuentes, Mexico, the United States, and the Multicultural Future

Janice H. Harris, Levels of Meaning in Lawrence’s "The Rocking Horse Winner"

Zora Neale Hurston, How It Feels to Be Colored Me

Zora Neale Hurston, What White Publishers Won’t Print

Shirley Jackson, The Morning of June 28, 1948 and "The Lottery"

Henry James, The Genesis of "The Real Thing"

Gustav Janouch, Kafka’s View of "The Metamorphosis"

Sarah Orne Jewett, Looking Back on Girlhood

Jamaica Kincaid, On "Girl"

Anne Lamott, Finding Your Voice

D.H. Lawrence, On "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "The Cask of Amontillado"

Ursula K. LeGuin, The Scapegoat in Omelas

Simon Lewis, Lahiri’s "Interpreter of Maladies"

Jack London, Letter to the Editor on "To Build a Fire"

Katherine Mansfield, Review of Woolf’s "Kew Gardens"

Guy de Maupassant, The Writer’s Goal

Herman Melville, Blackness in Hawthorne’s "Young Goodman Brown"

J. Hillis Miller, A Deconstructive Reading of Melville’s "Bartleby, the Scrivener"

Alice Munro, How I Write Short Stories

Vladimir Nabokov, Gogol’s Genius in "The Overcoat"

Vladimir Nabokov, A Reading of Chekhov’s "The Lady with the Little Dog"

J.C.C. Nachtigal, Peter Klaus the Goatherd

Tim O’Brien, Alpha Company

Frank O’Connor, The Nearest Thing to Lyric Poetry Is the Short Story

Frank O’Connor, Style and Form in Joyce’s "The Dead"

*Daniel Orozco, On Steven Millhauser’s "Flying Carpets"

*Cynthia Ozick, Isaac Babel: "Let Me Finish"

Grace Paley, A Conversation with Ann Charters

Jay Parini, Lawrence’s and Steinbeck’s "Chrysanthemums"

Edgar Allan Poe, The Importance of the Single Effect in a Prose Tale

Edward W. Said, The Past and the Present: Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography

Leslie Marmon Silko, Language and Literature from a Pueblo Indian Perspective

*Matt Steinglass, Reading Tim O’Brien In Hanoi

Amy Tan, In the Canon, for All the Wrong Reasons

Leo Tolstoy, Chekhov’s Intent in "The Darling"

Leo Tolstoy, The Works of Guy de Maupassant

*Luis Alberto Urrea, On "Father Returns From The Mountain"

Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston: A Cautionary Tale and a Partisan View

Eudora Welty, Is Phoenix Jackson’s Grandson Really Dead?

Part Three: Casebooks

CASEBOOK ONE: James Baldwin’s "Sonny’s Blues"

James Baldwin, Autobiographical Notes

Keith E. Byerman, Words and Music: Narrative Ambiguity in "Sonny’s Blues"

Kenneth A. McClane, "Sonny’s Blues" Saved My Life

CASEBOOK TWO: Raymond Carver

Raymond Carver, On Writing

Raymond Carver, Creative Writing 101

Raymond Carver, The Bath

Tom Jenks, The Origins of "Cathedral"

Arthur M. Saltzman, A Reading of "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love"

A.O. Scott, Looking for Raymond Carver

CASEBOOK THREE: Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s "The Yellow Wallpaper"

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Why I Wrote "The Yellow Wallpaper"

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Undergoing the Cure for Nervous Prostration

Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, A Feminist Reading of Gilman’s "The Yellow Wallpaper"

Elaine Showalter, On "The Yellow Wallpaper"

CASEBOOK FOUR: Flannery O’Connor

Flannery O’Connor, From Letters, 1954-55

Flannery O’Connor, Writing Short Stories

Flannery O’Connor, A Reasonable Use of the Unreasonable

Joyce Carol Oates, The Parables of Flannery O’Connor

Wayne C. Booth, A Rhetorical Reading of O’Connor’s "Everything That Rises Must Converge"

Dorothy Tuck McFarland, On "Good Country People"

CASEBOOK FIVE: Joyce Carol Oates’s "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"

Joyce Carol Oates, Stories That Define Me: The Making of a Writer

Joyce Carol Oates, Smooth Talk: Short Story into Film

Don Moser, The Pied Piper of Tucson: He Cruised in a Golden Car, Looking for Action

*CASEBOOK SIX: Magical Realism

Jorge Luis Borges, Borges and I

*Alejo Carpentier, On the Marvelous Real in America

*Alejo Carpentier, The Baroque and the Marvelous Real

*Luis Leal, Magical Realism in Spanish American Literature

* William Gass, The First Seven Pages of the Boom

*Ursula K. Le Guin, The Kind of Fiction Most Characteristic of Our Times

*Mario Vargas Llosa, The Prose Style of Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez

CASEBOOK SEVEN: Graphic Storytelling

Alison Bechdel, What the Little Old Ladies Feel

Charles Hatfield, From Alternative Comics: Toward the Habit of Questioning

Michael Kupperman, Are Comics Serious Literature? [graphic story]

Sydney Plum, Reading "The Veil" by Marjane Satrapi

Joe Sacco, Some Reflections on Palestine

Edward W. Said, Homage to Joe Sacco

Part Four: Appendices

  1. Reading Short Stories [includes Grace Paley, Samuel]
  2. The Elements of Fiction
  3. A Brief History of the Short Story
  4. Writing About Short Stories
  5. Literary Theory and Critical Perspectives
  6. Glossary of Literary Terms
  7. Chronological Listing of Authors and Stories
*Thematic Index

Index of Authors and Titles

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2004

    The story and it's writer!

    This textbook(if you want to call it that) rocked! It had lots of great short stories i would recomend this book to people that love short fiction or for people that want to learn more about short fiction. It not only compiles shorts stories but towards the end it compiles commentaries from critics during the time the short stories were written.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2001

    Excellent Beginning for a College English Class

    This book incredibly influenced my addiction to literature. The particularly chosen stories are the ones I love to read and reread. Also, this book manages to include all of my personal favorite stories. Not one was excluded. If you're looking for some random story your professor told you to read, check here to find it first. If you're just bored with novels, this is also a great place to check first. I'd recommend this book to my 15 year old daughter, as well as to my husband. Even as an 'old' college student, I loved it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 1999

    A Superb Anthology

    I attend the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and used THE STORY AND ITS WRITER for a short story class, in which I was enrolled. Ann Charters has compiled, what I feel, to be the very best short (and some not so short) selections that I have ever read. I found the biographical information about each author who has a story in the book not only to be helpful, but also enlightening. I recommend this book to those individuals who are trying to choose a textbook for a class, or for those who just want a 'nice big book' with 'lots of little stories' to read! On a scale of 1 to 10...I give THE STORY AND ITS WRITER a definite 12!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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