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Collected Stories Paperback – August 12, 1982

17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"One of the masters of the short story." -- Peter S. Prescott, Newsweek

"In his 63 years, Frank O'Connor produced an impressive amount of work...but it's his short stories that guarantee his immortality. They are encapsulated universes. While most modern stories focus on a single moment, Frank O'Connor's generally sum up the patterns of whole lives ....Each [story] is, in its own way, shattering." -- Anne Tyler, Chicago Sunday Times

"Walter Benjamin says in his essay on Leskov that people think of a storyteller as someone who has come from afar. O'Connor's best stories put the same thought into our heads; how far, in some imaginative sense, he has to travel to achieve such wisdom and to accomplish it with such Flair." -- Denis Donoghue, New York Times Book Review

"In almost all the stories in this excellently balanced collection O'Connor's people explode from the page. The nice are here and the nasty: the gentle, the generous, the mean, the absurd, those rich in dignity, those without a shred of it....Without adornment, he simply tells the truth." -- William Trevor, Washington Post Book World

"The life work of an artist whose stature is comparable to that of W.B. Yeats and James Joyce, an artist who, in the words of Yeats himself, did for Ireland what Chekhov did for Russia." -- Robert Leiter, Philadelphia Inquirer

From the Back Cover

"One of the masters of the short story." -- Peter S. Prescott, Newsweek

"In his 63 years, Frank O'Connor produced an impressive amount of work...but it's his short stories that guarantee his immortality. They are encapsulated universes. While most modern stories focus on a single moment, Frank O'Connor's generally sum up the patterns of whole lives ....Each [story] is, in its own way, shattering." -- Anne Tyler, Chicago Sunday Times

"Walter Benjamin says in his essay on Leskov that people think of a storyteller as someone who has come from afar. O'Connor's best stories put the same thought into our heads; how far, in some imaginative sense, he has to travel to achieve such wisdom and to accomplish it with such Flair." -- Denis Donoghue, New York Times Book Review

"In almost all the stories in this excellently balanced collection O'Connor's people explode from the page. The nice are here and the nasty: the gentle, the generous, the mean, the absurd, those rich in dignity, those without a shred of it....Without adornment, he simply tells the truth." -- William Trevor, Washington Post Book World

"The life work of an artist whose stature is comparable to that of W.B. Yeats and James Joyce, an artist who, in the words of Yeats himself, did for Ireland what Chekhov did for Russia." -- Robert Leiter, Philadelphia Inquirer

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Books ed edition (August 12, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394710487
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394710488
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By L. Stearns Newburg on July 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
Generally, when it comes to literature, I'm fairly hard to please. That being said, I love this book without reservation. I've recommended it to and foisted it on friends for years now. Many of them react much the way I do: there isn't anyone else like Frank O'Connor.

The stories are lyrical, sharply and humorously observed, and told with elegance in an easy but precise idiomatic diction. O'Connor always gave his work the test of being read aloud, and this care for the sound and cadence of his prose shows on every page.

Then, there is O'Connor's feeling for people. Reading the stories, one gets the impression that he was an intelligent but fundamentally kindly, generous man. Even when a character in the stories does something that seems objectionable, O'Connor never loses sight of that character's humanity. There is no absence of modernist irony, and the irony can sting (as in "The Mad Lomasneys"), but it is never cruel.

O'Connor's stories take place in Ireland, but they are not circumscribed by a desire to depict Irish regional color or romantic notions about the place. He wrote what he knew and understood, and what he understood was the people he grew up with. If that makes him a regionalist, then so were Faulkner and John Millington Synge. In his own subtle way, O'Connor was a realist, and ultimately, these stories are universal: they touch places in the psyche and the human heart that are common to us all.

Any selection of one's "favorite" stories will be personal. To an interested reader, I would say, "Read them all." To friends who ask, I add that they should start with "Guests of the Nation" and "First Confession." These aren't his "best" stories, but I've always liked them both, they are typical of his best, and one must start somewhere.

When I've given 5 stars to a book, I've often had to argue with myself as to whether it deserved it. Not for this one.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Gulley Jimson on June 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
There is a line from William Trevor (no stranger to the short story) on the back of the book that I think is highest praise that one writer can give another: "without adornment, he simply tells the truth."
We don't demand things so weighty from books anymore, and are probably likely to dismiss a person or a book that promises it, but I think the word at least gets at O'Connor's idea of a short story. The truth, for him, is a live person on paper, going through a period of his or her life where they understand something about either themselves or the world. When he taught writing, he insisted that his students write a one-sentence theme for their story: what is it saying, demonstrating - what truth is it getting at?
This seems an old-fashioned idea of the story, but nothing about O'Connor's work seems either old-fashioned or excessively schematic - his stories are as alive as writing can be while still having unity and weight, and they carry their truth with humor and humanity. The Richard Ellman introduction, I'm afraid, misses this completely. Ellman was a friend of O'Connor's in later life, but I don't think he understands his work very well. The introduction makes O'Connor sound like some sort of genial provincial, with the primary virtue of his work being a portrait of a vanished society.
But no writer of fiction who is just a chronicler can survive: it doesn't matter that today Anna and Karenin could simply divorce. The book is relevant because Anna and Karenin are both real on the page, as so many of O'Connor's characters are. Ellman's lack of understanding influences his selection: too many of O'Connor's later less inspired work is here, and many wonders are missing. Why did he leave off In the Train, for example?
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 28, 1998
Format: Paperback
Frank O'Connor is likely our time's and our language's best at telling the short story. Don't miss "First Confession" or "The Drunkard."
You don't have to be Irish to recognize the pattern and rhythm of life and speech in his stories. They capture a place and time perfectly, but yet transcend the confinements of culture or period.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 6, 1999
Format: Paperback
The tradition of the Irish story teller has been reborn in this century in her marvelous short story writers. None was finer than Corkman, Frank O'Connor. All of O'Connor's classic stories are here. O'Connor truly captures Irish life in the early part of this century. The wit and humor that are legendary among Corkmen is present throughout this book. This is one of my favorite books ever. I have given it as a gift too many times to count. Every person that I gave it to came back raving about it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Newman on June 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
I have not been this impressed and delighted by the written word, especially by short stories, in my entire life. Frank O'Connor's writing encapsulates universal wisdom and injects it into the everday lives of working class people struggling for understanding of the interstices of their heart and minds. There are marriages here, and deaths. There are relationships here, and growth. There are happinesses here, and despair. There are lessons here, and frivolity. But mostly there is a knowing heart which pries apart each chamber of itself, disclosing love.

One tends to know great writing by how one's own personal outlook and relationship to life grow and change during the course of reading a story, and if it's wisdom and greater articulate understanding of people, men, women, families, children, and life one searches for...look no further.

My particular favorite stories within this collection are "Expectation of Life", and "A Set of Variations on a Borrowed Theme." These stories moved me to tears. Not many writers achieve this...
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