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The Lonely Voice: A Study of the Short Story Paperback – June 7, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"It's unsurprising that this book should prove so hardy: O'Connor was compelling when voicing an opinion. What Richard Ellmann calls the "assumptive tone" of his criticism can inspire, thrill and infuriate, but will never bore." —The Guardian

“A dazzling and provocative introduction to talking about what people do when they sit down to write short stories.” —from the introduction by Russell Banks

“This is a brilliant book on a subject about which little has been written. It carries, besides, the authority a critical work always possesses when its author is a distinguished practitioner of the art he is criticizing.”  —The New York Times Book Review

About the Author

Frank O'Connor is widely recognized as one of Ireland’s greatest writers and cultural figures. He lived in the United States off and on after 1952, teaching at Harvard and Stanford, and writing stories for The New Yorker magazine. His most popular works include his Collected Stories, Guest of the Nation, and An Only Child.

Russell Banks is the author of sixteen works of fiction. He has received numerous international prizes, and two of his novels— The Sweet Hereafter and Affliction—have been made into award-
winning films. Banks lives in upstate New York.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House (June 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935554425
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935554424
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #245,176 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By K. Bunker VINE VOICE on May 27, 2012
Format: Paperback
Since this little volume first appeared in 1963, there probably hasn't been a single book written on the topic of the short story that doesn't make some mention of it.

O'Connor was a noted short story writer in his own right as well as an essayist and literary critic. His central premise in this book, that short stories tend to arise out of "submerged populations" (i.e., minority groups, immigrants, etc.) may not have gained wide acceptance in academic circles, but that doesn't diminish the interest or the charm of this book in the least. It's a thoroughly fascinating examination of the short story as an art form, and a rollicking fun read to boot.

Much of the "fun" part comes from O'Connor's unabashed and delightfully expressed opinions. Here he is on one of Ernest Hemingway's short story classics:
"In 'The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber' Francis runs away from a lion, which is what most sensible men would do if faced by a lion, and his wife promptly cuckolds him with the English manager of their big-game hunting expedition. As we all know, good wives admire nothing in a husband except his capacity to deal with lions, so we can sympathize with the poor woman in her trouble. [...] To say that the psychology of this story is childish would be to waste good words. [...] Clearly, it is the working out of a personal problem that for the vast majority of men and women has no validity whatever."

This may not represent the consensus opinion on Hemingway's story, but what fun it is to see someone stand up to the old pugilist and tweak his nose!

This is not to say that all of O'Connor's comments are snarky; he freely calls other Hemingway stories works of genius. And he bubbles over with enthusiasm when discussing many, many other authors as well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By VFP on January 5, 2015
Format: Paperback
This is a classic study of the short story. It is literary theory at its best, intelligent, insightful and yet readable. This is not a book on how to write short stories rather it is a exploration and study of the genre.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 18, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
THERE ARE SEVERAL STORIES EACH STORY IS BETTER THAN THE ONE BEFORE IT, I LOVE READING HIS WORK
IN SEVERAL STORIES I FELT LIKE IT WAS A FAMIY EXPERIENCE
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0 of 9 people found the following review helpful By D. Lalley on August 21, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a recent English(creative writing)graduate , I bought this book hoping it would be helpful in my endeavors to write a really solid short story for my grad school admissions. However, this book really didn't serve any practical learning purposes whatsoever. It's not that the book isn't insightful or well written, it's just that newer generations of writers would find the subject matter somewhat out dated and hard to follow. It's mostly just a long critique of really old writers like Maupassant an Chekhov (I think the only American writer critiqued is Hemingway.)and unless you've read all the stories that the author critiques and compares, you will find yourself lost in the difficult analysis. Again, this book is not a guide to writing or a useful tool, it's essentially a college professor of the early sixties "nerding out" over the short stories of Chekhov and Turgenev.
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0 of 10 people found the following review helpful By manndrake on August 16, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book, thinking it was a writing instruction book. Instead, the first chapter is a treatise on the short story, and the remaining chapters are critiques of various writers who are famous for their short stories. I did not agree with Mr. O'Conner's view of what a short story should be. He seems to be saying that short stories should be about ordinary people who are struggling to keep their heads above water physically, professionally, or emotionally. This view does prevail right now and it is the reason I find today's short stories unreadable. Too many of today's stories present a character who does nothing but despair over his miserable lot in life. Mr. O'Conner is praised as one of the best short story writers of our day. I do not know that I have read any of his stories. If I have, they were not noteworthy to me.
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