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The Oxford Book of American Short Stories, 2nd Ed.

Oxford Book of American Short Stories updated ed

Editor: Joyce Carol Oates
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Year: 2012
Length: 873 pages
Preview: Oxford University Press

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Publisher's Blurb

This sweeping collection of American short fiction, brilliantly compiled by an editor, Joyce Carol Oates, who is herself a master of the craft, celebrates the richness and diversity of the American literary imagination, past and present. Guiding readers on an extraordinary journey through an unexpected set of masterpieces, this enchanting new edition offers fresh pathways into the multitudinous talents and piercing sensibilities of America's most cherished authors. Some classics simply cannot be passed over, and Oates readily includes such time-honored tales as "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Tell-Tale Heart." But alongside canonical favorites are Herman Melville's often overlooked "The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids," Flannery O'Connor's comic and moving "A Late Encounter with the Enemy," and F. Scott Fitzgerald's revealingly self-analytical "An Alcoholic Case." Introducing a wide range of contemporary writers, and retrieving enduringly influential writers not covered in the past editionThe Oxford Book of American Short Stories will captivate readers with the profundity of America's literary heritage.

 

Contents

  • Introduction
  • Washington Irving : Rip Van Winkle
  • William Austin : Peter Rugg, the Missing Man
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne : The Wives of the Dead
  • Edgar Allan Poe : The Tell-Tale Heart
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe : The Ghost in the Mill
  • Herman Melville : The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids
  • Samuel Clemens : Cannibalism in the Cars
  • Henry James : The Middle Years
  • Sarah Orne Jewett : A White Heron
  • Kate Chopin : The Storm
  • Mary E. Wilkins Freeman : Old Woman Magoun
  • Charles Chesnutt : The Sheriff's Children
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman : The Yellow Wallpaper
  • Edith Wharton : A Journey
  • Stephen Crane : The Little Regiment
  • Willa Cather : A Death in the Desert
  • Sherwood Anderson : The Strength of God
  • Jack London : In a Far Country
  • William Carlos Williams : The Girl with a Pimply Face
  • H.P. Lovecraft : The Rats in the Walls
  • Jean Toomer : Blood-Burning Moon
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald : An Alcoholic Case
  • William Faulkner : That Evening Sun
  • Ernest Hemingway : Hills Like White Elephants
  • Langston Hughes : Red-Headed Baby
  • Richard Wright : The Man Who Was Almost a Man
  • Nelson Algren : A Bottle of Milk for Mother
  • Eudora Welty : Where Is the Voice Coming From?
  • Paul Bowles : A Distant Episode
  • John Cheever : The Country Husband
  • Ralph Ellison : Battle Royal
  • Bernard Malamud : My Son the Murderer
  • Shirley Jackson : The Lottery
  • Ray Bradbury : There Will Come Soft Rains
  • James Baldwin : Sonny's Blues
  • Flannery O'Connor : A Late Encounter with the Enemy
  • Cynthia Ozick : The Shawl
  • Donald Barthelme : The School
  • John Updike : The Persistence of Desire
  • Philip Roth : Defender of the Faith
  • Annie Proulx : The Mud Below
  • Raymond Carver : Are These Actual Miles?
  • Joyce Carol Oates : Heat
  • Russell Banks : The Child Screams and Looks Back at You
  • Edmund White : Give It Up for Billy
  • Richard Ford : Under the Radar
  • Tobias Wolff : Hunters in the Snow
  • Tim O'Brien : The Things They Carried
  • Stephen King : The Reach
  • T.C. Boyle : Filthy with Things
  • Amy Hempel : Today Will Be a Quiet Day
  • Louise Erdrich : Fleur
  • Jeffrey Ford : The Drowned Life
  • Ha Jin : Children as Enemies
  • Lorrie Moore : How to Become a Writer
  • David Foster Wallace : Good People
  • Pinckney Benedict : Mercy
  • Jhumpa Lahiri : Hell-Heaven
  • Junot Díaz : Edison, New Jersey


Preface

Perhaps the most profound change in the American short story, from the early nineteenth century (Washington Irving, William Austin, Nathaniel Hawthorne) to the early twenty-first century (a dazzling array of mainstream and "ethnic minority" writers of whom the youngest in this anthology is Junot Díaz, born 1968) is the movement from the mythic to the anecdotal, from a mode of impersonal storytelling in which the narrator is likely to be invisible, anonymous, and even irrelevant to the tale, to a mode of storytelling that is intensely personal, self-conscious, and narrated in a distinctive "voice." Perhaps more significantly, the change has been gradual from a literature that assumed a singular general, homogeneous audience educated in the classics, the Christian Bible, even (possibly) in Latin and Greek, to numerous particularized audiences that may have very little in common except the English language—which might not be, for many readers, their primary language.

In the Colonies and in the young United States, there were relatively few densely populated cities, of course; through the nineteenth-century, the readership for what we now call "nineteenth-century American literature" was far smaller than it is now, but, among this readership, writers like Irving, Hawthorne, Melville, and their contemporaries could assume a unified cultural community, predominantly Christian and "Anglo." Poets as radically different from one another as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Emily Dickinson, and Walt Whitman could nonetheless assume a common overlapping readership; their literary and Biblical allusions were part of a commonly shared vocabulary. Similarly, writers as radically different as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, and Henry James could assume a common overlapping readership. Now, in the twenty-first century, our vast country has become populated—unevenly, in scattered regions of the continent—with countless ethnic minorities and subminorities, each bearing its own significant history: that of the "old world," and that of the "immigrant" and the immigrant's children. Here the crucial drama is the struggle to be assimilated into American society—unless it's the struggle to resist assimilation. "Identity politics" has carried over into the arts with enormous, unprecedented popular success for certain of its practitioners: Jhumpa Lahiri, Ha Jin, and Junot Díaz, to name just three new "transcultural" writers, can expect their books to be bestsellers, appealing to both their ethnic-minority constituents and a larger, mainstream readership, like the novels of Isabel Allende, Salman Rushdie, and Gary Shteyngart. Issues of gender, women's rights, gay rights, New Age, and cult sensibilities are now unifying issues for large segments of the reading population, a situation that would have been inconceivable in the literary United States of decades ago. With the meteoric rise of the Internet, online blogging and online publication of writers' works, including even the publication of full-length novels, clearly the older, hierarchical structure of a mainstream Literary Establishment is disintegrating; where publications like the Saturday Evening Post, Redbook, Atlantic, Harper's, and the New Yorker once dominated the literary culture, now there is an unmappable diversity—egalitarian and, in a sense, quality-blind. The Internet is the very emblem of the "buzzing, blooming confusion" of which William James spoke in his attempt to define the Universe.

Indeed, this edition of the Oxford anthology may be the last to reasonably claim any sort of national "American" identity, let alone unity.

Our obsessive concerns in twenty-first century America have to do with identity of a specific sort. Where earlier literature took for granted an Everyman-reader—male, white, educated, English-speaking—there is now a highly particularized reader. In Edmund White's "Give It Up for Billy," for instance, we are taken immediately into the confidence of a middle-aged gay man whose unsentimental perspective allows us an unnervingly frank, revealing portrait of "straight, heterosexual" individuals, as junot Díaz's "Edison, New Jersey" presents a world seen with vivid particularity from the perspective of working-class Dominicans living in New jersey. And the Chinese-American Ha Jin's entertainingly narrated but poignant "Children as Enemies"—so aptly titled!—dramatizes the pain of an immigrant group's cultural loss of identity in the indifference of an "Americanized" third generation. (This theme, too, could not have been explored before the 1950s, for it wasn't until that decade that children began to exist as a category of autonomous individuals with their own willful, even subversive wishes; and in that decade, in a wave of postwar prosperity, "children" and "teenagers" began to be identified as consumers, as they had not ever before in history.)

Within a literary culture so shifting, as the larger culture is continually shifting, it seems necessary to look both forward and back, to include new work by young and emerging writers like those mentioned above, but also to retrieve from the past writers who were not, for one reason or another, included in the original Oxford Book of American Short Stories, whose work has endured through the decades: H.P. Lovecraft, whose influence upon "gothic" fiction and film has been inestimable; Nelson Algren, poet of Chicago slum-life; Shirley Jackson, author of an American gothic classic, "The Lottery"; and Philip Roth, whose "Defender of the Faith," startling and controversial when it was first published more than a half-century ago, has become, in the ongoing American drama of the anxiety of immigrant "identity," a classic as well.