The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction edited by Richard Bausch and R.V. Cassill

The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction edited by Richard Bausch and R.V. CassillThe Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, Shorter 7th Edition by Richard Bausch
Published by W. W. Norton & Company on January 24th 2006
Pages: 1088

This is the book I’ve been reading for the past few weeks. I’ve not quite finished but I think I’ve had enough. It’s an anthology of stories, some of them only a couple of pages while others are novellas. Along with these stories, though, are a number of pages full of writers talking about writing, then there’s a few pages of writing fiction finally followed by a few pages of reviews and commentaries. I’ve just started reading the section on writing fiction and while there’s still a lot to learn from this book I’ve had enough. It will go on the shelf for future reference.

I have skipped the odd story. Some of them have the potential for being very odd but that’s not why I skipped them. I decided I really didn’t need to reread Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, I studied it at uni a couple of years ago and I find it very black. I also omitted reading both stories by Franz Kafka. I had to read both The Metamorphosis and A Hunger Artist recently, again rather dark stories and I couldn’t see why I needed to revisit them. I also left out Thomas Mann as I struggled to understand or maintain the thread of the story. And also Edgar Allan Poe. I tried reading a book of his stories thirty years ago, it sits on my shelf uncompleted as the horror component was very strong and I decided I didn’t need to give myself nightmares. I felt this story probably would be no different.

As to the rest?

They are a mixed bag of very good to excellent. There are some stories I really didn’t understand and couldn’t figure out what I could learn from them, I suspect I’d need a tutor for these. All of these stories have been chosen with the idea that the reader can learn something about writing from them. What I’m saying is that this book is aimed at the writer. Whether the reader is a new writer or an established writer is irrelevant, this book is still a valuable read. And that then is why the section of Writers on Writing is 46 pages. All of this plus the next two topics supplement the stories. I reckon the best way to read this is not lying down in bed, but at a desk with notetaking capacity and making sure to follow up each story with the appropriate readings at the back of the book. In other words, read it as it shows in the Contents page. I say this having read it lying in bed while doing the exercises my physio gave me. I need to lie down in a set position for fifteen minutes, my arms are free to do whatever I want so I choose to read.

But, having told you it’s aimed at writers, readers will also find much of value and interest within these pages. Just reading some of these stories will open your mind and give you much to think about.


Just to give you an idea of some of the authors in this book I’m writing a bullet point list:

  • Margaret Atwood
  • James Balwin
  • Ambrose Bierce
  • Jorge Luis Borges
  • Willa Catha
  • Anton Chekhov
  • Edwidge Danticat
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • James Joyce
  • Jasunari Kawabata
  • Herman Melville
  • Bharati Mukherjee
  • Vladimir Nabokov
  • Flannery O’Connor
  • Isaac Bashvis Singer
  • Amy Tan

This is only a small selection of the authors in this book. I wish you luck finding a copy of it. I was fortunate enough to find this at the uni bookshop for a vastly reduced price. Here is a link to a similar book so you can get some idea of how much it might cost should you wish to buy a new copy. This anthology has been published since 1978 so take care about the publishing year to be certain you get the right one. And also, this is the shorter seventh edition.