Edited by Charles E. May
Although the short story has often been called America’s unique contribution to the world’s literature, relatively few critics have taken the form seriously. May’s collection of essays by popular commentators, academic critics, and short story writers attempts to assess the reasons for this neglect and provides significant theoretical directions for a reevaluation of the form.
The essays range from discussions by Poe to comments by John Cheever. Frank O’Connor describes the short story as depicting “an intense awareness of human loneliness,” and Nadine Gordimer suggests that the story is more suitable than the novel in rendering the fragmentary modern experience. Eudora Welty sees the story as something “wrapped in an atmosphere” of its own; Randall Jarrell speaks of the mythic basis of the genre. Elizabeth Bowen and Alberto Moravia discuss thematic and structural distinctions between the novel and the story.
The collection also includes discussions of various types of stories, as satiric and lyric, critical surveys of the development of the modern short story, and the status of the form at the present time. An excellent annotated bibliography is also included, which describes 135 books and articles on the short story, evaluating their contribution to a unified theory of the form.
Charles E. May is professor of English at California State University, Long Beach. He is the author of Edgar Allan Poe: A Study of the Short Fiction and The Short Story: A Study of the Genre and editor of Short Story Theories, Fiction’s Many Words, and The Twentieth Century European Short Story. He has published over a hundred and fifty articles, mostly on the short story, in a variety of journals, books, and reference works and has developed a software program, HyperStory, available from D. C. Heath Publishers, for short story instruction.
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