I was going to call this post 'Found in the Stacks' since I happened across this lovely NYRB reissue of the 1958 classic, Randall Jarrell's Book of Stories, purely by chance. I was pulling books to put on display yesterday (display theme: short stories!), and was in a section that had a number of interesting-looking anthologies. This caught my eye, but I had intended it for my display. Back at my desk to change the book locations (and oh, so many lovely short story collections I assembled), and I had a moment to actually look at it, and decided it needed to come home with me instead. For some reason I thought this was a collection of stories by Randall Jarrell, but it's an anthology of various short story writers as selected by Jarrell. I'd heard of Jarrell, but didn't know anything about him. He was a poet, novelist, translator, critic, and children's book author from Tennessee.
I'm told Jarrell was a good friend of poet Robert Lowell, and that Jarrell was Poet Laureate (or at least what is now known as Poet Laureate). Poetry is another gaping (very much gaping) hole in my reading repetoire that I swear one day I am going to address.
Anyway, it's the blurbs that sold me.
"My favorite short-story anthology is Randall Jarrell's, with a brilliant essay as a preface." --Michael Dirda, Washington Post
"Long out of print, this landmark volume--and the sweeping essay at the front--may change how you think about fiction. (It may also change how you think about your own life.) This is a book to return to, and to keep."--Stephen Burt
Brad Leithauser calls the anthology "as fine an entry into the art of the short story as any I know." How could I possibly pass it up. Besides, I'm an easy sell when it comes to short stories. I love short stories, though I don't read enough of them. This book, I plan on reading. I'm starting with that much lauded introductory essay of course (and may share my findings here).
I bet you're curious to know who Jarrell has chosen for inclusion in the book, right?
Franz Kafka, Anton Chekhov, Rainer Maria Rilke, Robert Frost, Giovanni Verga, Nikolai Gogol, Elizabeth Bowen, Ludwig Tieck, Bertolt Brecht, Leo Tolstoy, Peter Taylor, Hans Christian Andersen, Katherine Anne Porter, the Bothers Grimm, E.M. Forster, the Book of Jonah, Saint-Simon, Isaac Babel, Chuang Tzu, Hugo Von Hofmannsthal, William Blake, D.H. Lawrence, Ivan Turgenev, William Wordsworth, Frank O'Connor, and Isak Dinesen.
Okay, so a little thin on women writers, but as someone else mentioned in a review it is an idiosyncratic and eclectic selection, so I'm willing to go with his choices. I'm very excited about my find and am going to start reading this weekend! First story is "A Country Doctor" by Franz Kafka. Yay for short stories.