Book Review: A Treasury of Short Stories ed. by Bernardine Kielty

A Treasury of Short Stories ed. by Bernardine Kielty (Simon & Schuster, 1947)

This is a collection of short stories, spanning two continents and over one hundred years. The stories are organized first by century (19th and 20th) and then by region (European and American).

Let’s talk first about the flaws here because though they are obvious and exactly what you’d expect, I think it’s still important to note them. This is a collection of dead white men. Originally published in 1947, this wasn’t shocking to me and I was pleased to see that as the collection moves along we do got some inclusion of women and even a couple of Black authors. (No Black women or any other minorities are represented.) It’s also rather narrow as to what it deems “European.” While there are a few stories translated from French or German, most of the stories were originally written in English and all of them originate from Western Europe. Same with the American stories; all of them are from the United States. To be honest, I would have been more surprised to find a Canadian author here than I was to find none at all but it makes me wonder why the editor bothered to organize the collection like this at all. Why not order the stories chronologically? Or by individual countries instead? This feels like it’s trying to be a world collection of stories but if that is the goal, it failed miserably.

So if you happen to pick up this short story collection expecting a vast variety of diverse cultures to be represented, you will be disappointed. However, for what this collection is, it was very enjoyable. As with any book that gathers together works from multiple authors, there were hits and misses. Some stories I loved, several I did not. There was a wide variety of voices; some of the stories (especially later in the American section) were written in very distinct voices and accents. There was a cluster of horror- type stories as we reached the end of the Europeans in the 19th century. Many of the stories took place amongst travellers. These I tended to not enjoy as much, particularly amongst the earlier stories, since there were often heavy colonial overtones.

Where this collection succeeded, I think, was in its goal to bring together some lesser known stories from a wide variety of familiar authors. While there weren’t a lot of brand new names here, the vast majority were stories I had never read. Topics, styles, characterization, and plot all vary widely throughout the collection which made it a pleasure to pick up each evening. My original plan was to read one story a night until I finished the book but I found myself wanting to continue many nights and often read a few stories in one day. It’s made me eager to read more short stories and to search out further (and more diverse) anthologies from a variety of authors.

Here’s the whole list. I’ve sorted them by my rating, out of 5 stars.

Five Stars:

The Last Lesson – Alphonse Daudet (5 stars)

Germelshausen – Friedrich Gerstaucher (5 stars)

A Lodging for the Night – Robert Louis Stevenson (5 stars)

The Storyteller – Frank O’Connor

The Rocking-Horse Winner – D.H. Lawrence

The Doll’s House – Katherine Mansfield

Young Archimedes – Aldous Huxley

A Haunted House – Virginia Woolf

The Voice in the Night – William Hope Hodgson

Babylon Revisited – F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Snows of Kilimanjaro – Ernest Hemingway

Act of Faith – Irwin Shaw

Sex Education – Dorothy Canfield

Four Stars:

A Day in the Country– Anton Chekhov

Two Little Soldiers – Guy de Maupassant

Without Benefit of Clergy – Rudyard Kipling (4 stars)

The Tragedy of a Comic Song – Leonard Merrick (4 stars)

The Pace of Youth – Stephen Crane (4 stars)

To Build a Fire – Jack London

Afterward – Edith Wharton

Sinners – Sean O’Faolain

Mackintosh – W. Somerset Maugham

Joining Charles – Elizabeth Bowen

The Mezzotint – M.R. James

The Story of a Panic – E.M. Forster

The Beckoning Fair One – Oliver Onions

Night Club – Katharine Brush

Price’s Always Open – John O’Hara

Seventy Thousand Assyrians – William Saroyan

O’Halloran’s Luck – Stephen Vincent Benet

Three Stars:

Yermolai and the Miller’s Wife – Ivan Turgenev (3 stars)

A Simple Heart – Gustave Flaubert (3 stars)

Our Lady’s Juggler – Anatole France (3 stars)

The Red-Headed League – Arthur Conan Doyle (3 stars)

The Money Box – W.W. Jacobs

The Coming-Out of Maggie – O. Henry

Sorrow-Acre – Isak Dinesen

The Old Hunter – Liam O’Flaherty

Bella Fleace Gave a Party – Evelyn Waugh

The Open Window – “Saki” (H.H. Munro)

Adam and Eve and Pinch Me – A.E. Coppard

Bird of Prey – John Collier

Blood Pressure – Damon Runyon

The Tuxedos – Jerome Weidman

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – James Thurber

Sacre du Printemps – Ludwig Bemelmans

Tom Whipple – Walter D. Edmonds

Petrified Man – Eudora Welty

The Hound – William Faulkner

No Door – Thomas Wolfe

Almos’ a Man – Richard Wright

Two Stars:

A Passion in the Desert – Honore de Balzac (2 stars)

The Saint Joseph’s Ass – Giovanni Verga (2 stars)

Quattrocentisteria – Maurice Hewlett (2 stars)

I’m a Fool – Sherwood Anderson

Some Like Them Cold – Ring Lardner

Silent Snow, Secret Snow – Conrad Aiken

Saturday Afternoon – Erskine Caldwell

The Old Order – Katharine Anne Porter

8 thoughts on “Book Review: A Treasury of Short Stories ed. by Bernardine Kielty”

  1. Ooooh, nice, a W.W. Jacobs story! I love his (few) stories that I have read. I really like the way you are fair about this collection and address what readers may be looking for. Sometimes I feel like book bloggers can lose sight of the fact that a book review is for readers to discern whether they want to pick up the same title. It’s hard! I know I have some ranty book reviews in which I’m not considering an audience at all, but my own ranty feelings (the most recent example being my review of A Tangled Web by L.M. Montgomery).

    1. Thank you! Some books you do just have to rant about! Anthologies like this are tricky because there were some stories I really disliked and found borderline offensive (by modern standards) while there were others that were breathtaking and so engaging.

  2. Ooh, so pleased to see William Hope Hodgson in the five-star selection, since he’s a new favourite of mine! The BL brought out a collection of his stories a year or two ago and I loved them, but I’m not recognising this title so I don’t think it could have been included. I’ve hardly read any of these stories so this sounds like an intriguing collection despite its limitations.

    1. I’d never heard of him before but the story is so odd and yet evocative. I would definitely read more from him. I did really enjoy that there were so many stories I’d never read before.

  3. Wow some big names in this anthology to be sure! Sadly, not surprising about the lack of diversity, but it’s interesting to think about what people in our future will say about our present day anthologies. Not enough gender fluid characters? No AI representation? It’s kind of a weird but delightful thing to think of.

    1. Yes, it’s a great lineup for what it is. That is an interesting that, that inevitably future audiences will have criticisms of current anthologies. Kind of humbling!

  4. I really like the idea of a collection of lesser-known stories from well-known writers! I recognize quite a few of the names here but not many of the titles, and even the titles I’ve heard of I don’t think I’ve actually read, so it’s nice to see you found such strong pieces among them and perhaps I’d seek a few of them out at some point. I’d love to see more modern anthologies along these lines this going forward, especially as the field of great, well-known writers becomes more diverse!

    1. I’d love to see an anthology like this for the past 20 years. I don’t generally reach for mixed anthologies of this kind so I’m not even sure how common short story anthologies are that bring multiple authors together like this now. I know there’s the annual American Short Story anthology that comes out but something that encompasses a number of years with a diverse spread of writers would be fantastic.

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