You've Got to Read This: Contemporary American Writers Introduce Stories that Held Them in Awe

Overview

Thirty-four of America's most distinguished fiction writers—including Oscar Hijuelos, John Irving, and Joyce Carol Oates—introduce the short stories that inspired them most.

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Overview

Thirty-four of America's most distinguished fiction writers—including Oscar Hijuelos, John Irving, and Joyce Carol Oates—introduce the short stories that inspired them most.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060982027
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/28/1994
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 640
  • Product dimensions: 6.11 (w) x 9.23 (h) x 1.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Ron Hansen is the bestselling author of the novel Atticus (a finalist for the National Book Award), Hitler's Niece, Mariette in Ecstasy, Desperadoes, and Isn't It Romantic?, as well as a collection of short stories, a collection of essays, and a book for children. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Ron Hansen lives in northern California, where he teaches at Santa Clara University.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


A Mother's Tale
James Agee

The calf ran up the little hill as fast as he could and stopped sharp. "Mama!" he cried, all out of breath. "What is it! What are they doing! Where are they going!"
Other spring calves came galloping too.
They all were looking up at her and awaiting her explanation, but she looked out over their excited eyes. As she watched the mysterious and majestic thing they had never seen before, her own eyes became even more than ordinarily still, and during the considerable moment before she answered, she scarcely heard their urgent questioning.
Far out along the autumn plain, beneath the sloping light, an immense drove of cattle moved eastward. They went at a walk, not very fast, but faster than they could imaginably enjoy. Those in front were compelled by those behind; those at the rear, with few exceptions, did their best to keep up; those who were locked within the herd could no more help moving than the particles inside a falling rock. Men on horses rode ahead, and alongside, and behind, or spurred their horses intensely back and forth, keeping the pace steady, and the herd in shape; and from man to man a dog sped back and forth incessantly as a shuttle, barking, incessantly, in a hysterical voice. Now and then one of the men shouted fiercely, and this like the shrieking of the dog was tinily audible above a low and awesome sound which seemed to come not from the multitude of hooves but from the center of the world, and above the sporadic bawlings and bellowings of the herd.
From the hillside this tumult was so distant that it only made more delicate the prodigious silence in which the earth and skywere held; and, from the hill, the sight was as modest as its sound. The herd was virtually hidden in the dust it raised, and could be known, in general, only by the horns, which pricked this flat sunlit dust like little briars. In one place a twist of the air revealed the trembling fabric of many backs; but it was only along the near edge of the mass that individual animals were discernible, small in a driven frieze, walking fast, stumbling and recovering, tossing their armed heads, or opening their skulls heavenward in one of those cries which reached the hillside long after the jaws were shut.
From where she watched, the mother could not be sure whether there were any she recognized. She knew that among them there must be a son of hers; she had not seen him since some previous spring, and she would not be seeing him again. Then the cries of the young ones impinged on her bemusement: "Where are they going?"
She looked into their ignorant eyes.
"Away," she said.
"Where?" they cried. "Where? Where?" her own son cried again.
She wondered what to say.
"On a long journey."
"But where to?" they shouted. "Yes, where to?" her son exclaimed, and she could see that he was losing his patience with her, as he always did when he felt she was evasive.
"I'm not sure," she said.

Their silence was so cold that she was unable to avoid their eyes for long.
"Well, not really sure. Because, you see," she said in her most reasonable tone, "I've never seen it with my own eyes, and that's the only way to be sure; isn't it."
They just kept looking at her. She could see no way out.
"But I've heard about it," she said with shallow cheerfulness, "from those who have seen it, and I don't suppose there's any good reason to doubt them."
She looked away over them again, and for all their interest in what she was about to tell them, her eyes so changed that they turned and looked, too.
The herd, which had been moving broadside to them, was being turned away, so slowly that like the turning of stars it could not quite be seen from one moment to the next; yet soon it was moving directly away from them, and even during the little while she spoke and they all watched after it, it steadily and very noticeably diminished, and the sounds of it as well.

"It happens always about this time of year," she said quietly while they watched. "Nearly all the men and horses leave, and go into the North and the West."
"Out on the range," her son said, and by his voice she knew what enchantment the idea already held for him.
"Yes," she said, "out on the range." And trying, impossibly, to imagine the range, they were touched by the breath of grandeur.
"And then before long," she continued, "everyone has been found, and brought into one place; and then . . . what you see, happens. All of them.
"Sometimes when the wind is right," she said more quietly, "you can hear them coming long before you can see them. It isn't even like a sound, at first. It's more as if something were moving far under the ground. It makes you uneasy. You wonder, why, what in the world can that be! Then you remember what it is and then you can really hear it. And then, finally, there they all are."
She could see this did not interest them at all.
"But where are they going?" one asked, a little impatiently.
"I'm coming to that," she said; and she let them wait. Then she spoke slowly but casually.
"They are on their way to a railroad."
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Table of Contents

Introduction
A Mother's Tale 1
Guy de Maupassant 19
Sonny's Blues 29
The School 57
The Aleph 63
A Day in the Open 77
A Distant Episode 87
The Star Cafe 101
Reflections 119
Cathedral 135
Goodbye, My Brother 151
Gooseberries 175
A Christmas Carol 187
Pie Dance 249
Greatness Strikes Where It Pleases 257
The Interview 271
The Dead 283
In the Penal Colony 319
Girl 343
The Smallest Woman in the World 349
The Daughters of the Late Colonel 359
Labor Day Dinner 379
Spring in Fialta 401
The Things They Carried 421
A Good Man Is Hard to Find 439
I Stand Here Ironing 457
Wants 467
In Dreams Begin Responsibilities 471
The Man to Send Rain Clouds 481
Helping 489
Master and Man 513
Packed Dirt, Churchgoing, a Dying Cat, a Traded Car 559
The Flowers 579
No Place for You, My Love 585
Paper Garden 603
About the Authors 615
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2001

    Got me 1/2 way

    This book is what I'd consider an 'okay' book which means its neither boring or exciting. It really depends on which stories you are reading. Although I do think the book would be better without the introductions because the introductions are boring and often doesn't really connect with the story itself.......

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