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Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story Paperback – Deckle Edge, October 2, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


“Hyperinteresting shoptalk from some of literary culture's best shops, and best talkers.” ―Kathryn Schulz, New York Magazine (Top 10 Books of 2012)

“The stories are indeed varied in their style, as the editors' note promises, but many of them left me with the same feeling: devastation.” ―The Christian Science Monitor

Object Lessons [is] my new favorite gift book.” ―Elizabeth Taylor, The Chicago Tribune

“This thoughtful book will make you look at short fiction with new eyes.” ―Minneapolis Star Tribune

“As the ‘Best American' anthologies begin their annual take-over of bookstore shelf space this month, short story fans should look past those displays to find this collection curated from the archives of The Paris Review.” ―The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“The editors call this a guide for young writers and readers interested in literary technique, and the book achieves that purpose while also serving as a tribute to the role The Paris Review has played in maintaining the diversity of the short story form. The collection reminds us that good stories are always whispering into each other's ears.” ―Publishers Weekly

“A compendium of The Paris Review's short story hits, curated with the ambitious, aspiring writer in mind. … Jeffrey Eugenides' discussion of Denis Johnson's "Car Crash While Hitchhiking" captures that story's heartbreak and serves as an essay on the virtues of the form itself. … A smart showcase of a half-century's worth of pathways in fiction.” ―Kirkus

About the Author

Established in 1953, The Paris Review is America's preeminent literary magazine.

Lorin Stein is the editor of The Paris Review.
Sadie Stein is deputy editor of The Paris Review. They are not related.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250005981
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250005984
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Means, an internationally acclaimed fiction writer, was born and raised in Michigan. His second collection of stories, ASSORTED FIRE EVENTS, won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction and earned a National Book Critics Circle nomination. His third book, THE SECRET GOLDFISH, received widespread critical acclaim and was shortlisted for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story prize. His fourth book, THE SPOT, was selected as a 2010 Notable Book by The New York Times, and won an O. Henry Prize. His books have been translated into eight language. His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Mystery Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, and numerous other publications.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By moose_of_many_waters VINE VOICE on August 18, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've had a subscription to The Paris Review for longer than I've been married. Back when I got my first few issues, my beard was barely there and sometimes I'd let the fuzz grow out for a few weeks. Now I shave every day because two thirds of my beard is white. Why have I subscribed to this magazine for close to 40 years? There's one reason: its former and original editor, George Plimpton. He had unique taste for an editor of a literary magazine. He tended to stay away from the pretentious and precious and he wasn't afraid to include a story or poem that would make you laugh out loud. As a writer and reader, I'm of the "please don't tell me your tsuris because I have enough of my own" school. There certainly were stories and poems in George Plimpton's Paris Review that were full of self pity. But I could easily avoid them. Almost every issue had something memorable. For over 40 years, Plimpton ruled over The Paris Review with a deft touch. This volume is essentially an homage to what undoubtedly is George Plimpton's most significant and enduring creation.

In Object Lessons, some well known writers are each invited to pick one story from The Paris Review's past. I've read almost all the stories contained here before. It was fun to read quite a few of them again. My one quibble is that the writers have tended to dwell on the more depressing stories The Paris Review has published. With one exception, they've forgotten the humor. I don't get that bias. For many years, there was actually an annual humor prize associated with the magazine that came with a significant chunk of cash. Early and wonderful stories of TC Boyle, David Foster Wallace, and Rick Moody published in The Paris Review aren't found in this volume.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Brendan Moody VINE VOICE on July 31, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The title of this anthology says a bit more than it means to. OBJECT LESSONS has an attractive concept: twenty contemporary writers pick their favorite stories from the archive of THE PARIS REVIEW and, in the words of the editors' note, "describe the key to its success as a work of fiction" in an introductory comment. This approach, the justification for the subtitle's mention of the art of the short story, will, the editors hope, make the anthology "useful to young writers, and to others interested in literary technique." And it is-- but no more so than any other largely excellent anthology would be.

Perhaps the problem is that the writers were asked to pick favorite stories. Writing with a truly intelligent critical eye about things one loves is difficult. Or perhaps it's the space available; the longest of the introductions is about three pages, which doesn't leave room for much specific insight. Whatever the reason, these mini-essays don't reveal much about "keys to success" or "the art of the short story" that readers of such an anthology couldn't work out on their own. They're more enthusiastic than analytic, with piles of superlatives about general, easily-observed features. Of course the situation doesn't call for term papers, but the success or failure of any short story is a complicated question, and virtue often rests in small, easy to miss things. A few writers do offer appropriately close readings, but even then they focus on broad variations in diction and similar comparatively simple points. (One of Dave Eggers' observations on James Salter's "Bangkok" would be quite powerful, except that it rests on a literal misreading of the text.) The introductions are well-written, affectionate, often poetic, not incisive about technique.

But enough about the introductions.
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful By K. Sullivan VINE VOICE on August 12, 2012
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"Object Lessons" is an anthology of 20 short stories from the archives of "the Paris Review." Each was selected by a contemporary author ("masters of the genre") who provides a brief introduction. Most selections are between 10 and 20 pages in length, with a couple exceptions on either end. They were written as long ago as 1955 (the magazine was founded in 1953) and as recently as 2010, with each intervening decade also represented. The styles range from standard narratives to absurdist surrealism.

Any reader expecting insightful analysis in the introductions will be disappointed. The tone is more gushing fan-boy than critical examination, the substance dominated more by empty, giddy compliments than practical "lessons". They resemble jacket blurbs more than meaningful commentary. When confronted with such overdone effusive praise, the tendency is to respond in one of two extremes: either conform (blindly accept their "expert" opinions as fact) or rebel (approach the works critically as a counterbalance). Of course, neither approach is fair to the stories themselves. The other practical problem with the introductions is that they often contain spoilers. I would suggest reading the stories first and then backtracking to the introductions.

This anthology is presented as "an indispensable resource for writers, students, and anyone else who wants to understand fiction from a writer's point of view." It claims to answer the question, "What does it take to write a great short story?" But it isn't the former and doesn't do the latter. Looking past its lofty claims, it's just a diverse collection of short stories linked by their publication in the same literary periodical. It can be judged on that criterion alone.

So how good are the stories?
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