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Tell Me a Riddle Paperback – July 15, 1971


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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Olsen, the writer, teacher, and 1930s left-wing activist, was born in 1912 of East European parents committed to Socialist and Jewish enlightenment values. Her work reflects the discrimination and marginalization she felt as a young girl growing up in Omaha, Nebraska. Like other women of the time, Olsen was underappreciated even in leftist circles, which suffered much the same gender bias as the larger society. "Tell Me a Riddle," which received the O. Henry first prize for best American short story in 1961, is reprinted in this volume (edited by Rosenfelt, women's studies, Univ. of Maryland) along with seven critical essays by feminist literary scholars, previously published in books or journals, that give a contemporary appreciation to Olsen's work. Highly recommended for multicultural collections, women's studies, and all American literature collections.?Lesley Jorbin, Cleveland State Univ. Lib.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"These stories have the lyric intensity of an Emily Dickinson poem and the scope of a Balzac novel." -- from the judges' citation for the Rea Award for the Short Story
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Delta; Reissue edition (July 15, 1971)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385290101
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385290104
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #983,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
5 star
64%
4 star
14%
3 star
0%
2 star
21%
1 star
0%
See all 14 customer reviews
Don't read the intro first.
Shana
Aced the report and got to read 4 amazing stories written by a wonderful author.
Leslie Oldfield
You will remember every word for the rest of your lives.
veganadya

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 14, 1998
Format: Paperback
Olsen writes stories that are so powerful, and so well-written, you'll want to read them again and again. Although she uses Jewish culture as a backdrop, her talents bring a universaility to her stories which reminds me of Steinbeck in its power, and Morrison in its complexity.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Hal B. Grossman on March 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
"Hey Sailor, What Ship" is the most powerful, concentrated portrayal of alcoholism that I have ever read. Olsen gets inside the mind of a late-stage alcoholic. Her prose seems to stretch and distort as her main character goes on an unplanned bender while on shore leave.

She shows beautiful restraint, too: there is nothing sensational or mawkish here. I am in awe of this story.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Akethan on May 5, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Amazed by her words and writing - the first story, I STAND HERE IRONING - where a mother is mulling over the changes in her and her daughter's lives and relationship. The stories were published in the 50s originally, but were written in a time-free fashion. Get you a copy, you hear?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 10, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a review of the title- story only. It is Tillie Olsen's most famous work.It tells the story of the decline in old- age of a strong , independent woman who has given her life to raising her children, and is deeply connected to her own home. Her husband and her are incompatible, and he wishes to sell the home and move into a retirement facility. She in clinging to the home is clinging to her independence. There is both a Jewish cultural and a socialist political milieu pervading the work. It is written in a kind of clipped, poetic language.
The story was considered revolutionary, a creative breakthrough work in its time.
I found it somewhat difficult at times, but with a harsh and admirable integrity.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Brandon Mann on August 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
Tillie Olsen packs a lifetime of enforced silences into this slender work of art. These are dense and poetic evocations of Joyce and Woolf, but with an added proletarian knife-thrust to the heart.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on January 30, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Don't be fooled! This is not Tillie Olsen's collection of four short stories of which "Tell me a Riddle" is only one. This book has only the one story and the rest is commentary, historical timelines, etc. Several people in my book club made the same error. The commentary was fine, but if you are looking for the collection of stories under "Tell me a Riddle," this is not the book. "I Stand Here Ironing," O, Yes," and "Hey Sailor, What Ship?," are NOT included in this volume. Olsen is a major short story writer of the 20th century and I urge everyone to read her work.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ace VINE VOICE on August 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
Tillie Olson is a brilliant woman. She was way ahead of her time, breaking through the constraints binding talented women back then by her sheer persistence and follow-through, becoming recognized as a notable author. Her insights regarding women authors of the 19th century are brilliant. And her story "Tell Me A Riddle" is a classic.

However, her words sometime seem to start from the middle of a conversation, back up against one another, fall over themselves and then make a circuitous route to sometimes puzzling conclusions. "Tell Me A Riddle" occasionally found me shaking my head as if to dislodge some buzzwords that were way too loud and confusing. Although I understood the gist of this powerful story, I found its delivery to be irritating.

Perhaps that is the way Tillie Olsen writes. However, despite the brilliance of her observations, I find her writing style too discordant.
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