My rating: 3 of 5 stars
50 Great Short Stories (1952) is edited by Milton Crane and contains stories no later than 1954 (the second edition), despite being reissued in September, 2005. So there are no new stories in this collection (none in the last sixty years, that is). The earliest story in the collection was the famous ”A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor and this story was copyrighted in 1953. The only other stories that come close were published in 1947 and 1948. It looks like the second edition was primarily to include O’Connor’s classic tale of the grandmother who fought the Misfit and lost. Any stories after that, however, seemed to be unfit for this specific collection of ”great” stories.
The collection starts with a bang with ”The Garden Party” (1922) by Katherine Mansfield and then tumbles its way through some well-known stories that are usually read in high school and college. There’s Hemingway’s ”The Three-Day Blow” (1925), E.M. Forster’s ”The Other Side of the Hedge” (1947), Henry James’s ”Brooksmith” (1892), Rudyard Kipling‘s ”The Courting of Dinah Shadd” (1899) and Alexander Poushkin’s ”The Shot” (1894) translated by T. Keane.
One story that somehow escaped my university years and was a first read was E.B. White‘s ”The Door” (1939). Only five pages long, ”The Door” nevertheless packs a punch about a man feeling trapped like a rat in a maze. Here is a bit from that story that I thought would resonate among some readers even in today’s world:
”For although my heart has followed all my days something I cannot name, I am tired of the jumping and I do not know which way to go, Madam, and I am not even sure that I am not tried beyond the endurance of man (rat, if you will) and have taken leave of sanity. What are you following these days, old friend, after your recovery from the last bump? What is the name, or is it something you cannot name?” (p 352).
E.B. White does have a way with language that is still accessible even today.
Another story that stood out among the others was ”How Beautiful with Shoes” (1932) by Wilbur Daniel Steele. A madman who quotes history and poetry escapes and kidnaps a young farm girl who is wearing her best Sunday shoes. They pass a night together and somewhere in their time together, in all that insanity, the girl gets a glimpse of what love should be like before the madman gets his head blown off with a shotgun. What a story!
There are many stories that were quite exceptional but would never, never be published under modern tastes. One such story was Robert Louis Stevenson‘s ”Thrawn Janet” (1887). Even the editors forgot to include this story with the 49 others in the ”Copyright and Acknowledgments” section, despite dedicating the 50 stories to Tom and Peter, whoever they might be. Here are a few sentences from ”Thrawn Janet” (Good luck):
”They baith come bit by bit, a pickle at a time; and there were folk even then that said the Lord had left the college professors to their ain devices, an’ the lads that went to study wi’ them wad hae done mair and better sittin’ in a peatbog, like their forbears of the persecution, wi’ a Bible under their oxter and a speerit o’ prayer in their heart” (p 548).
This story took some time getting through. And all I can say is the story is about ghosts and devils haunting a house.
The collection ends with a truly funny story. ”The Chaser” (1940) by John Collier had me laughing and almost falling off the stationary bike in the gym. Alan runs into an old peddler of tonics and mixtures and other such potions. The old man has a few choices and offers these to Alan. There is the expensive ”Glove-Cleaner”, also known as the ”Life-Cleaner”, at a whopping 5,000 dollars (and that is in 1940’s money too). There is also the ”Love potion” at only one dollar. And that is where the kicker comes in.
Alan decides to buy the love potion for a single dollar because he wants Diana to be truly and madly in love with him. He is already in a relationship with her but Alan wants a deeper and more meaningful relationship.
The old man explains:
”She will want to know all you do,” said the old man. ”All that has happened to you during the day. Every word of it. She will want to know what you are thinking about, why you smile suddenly, why you are looking sad.”
”That is love!” cried Alan (p 559).
I believe Alan will be coming back in a few months to get that ”Life-Cleaner” potion after all.
This collection of 50 Great Short Stories are ”great” stories most readers call classics, and many fewer readers will want to read. A writing mentor once told me that tastes change, and from this collection I can tell that they have. Times are very different than they were sixty and seventy years ago, so I am not sure how we can continue to judge stories and other forms of writing. Regardless, as readers we can always appreciate stories that last and can have an impact even today, and this collection, or a good majority of it anyway, does exactly that.
If you love reading stories, and good stories that will make you laugh, cry, and think, then take a chance and read this book.
My Writing Students at the University of Sunderland in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
CG FEWSTON is an American novelist who is a member of AWP, a member of Americans for the Arts, and a professional member and advocate of the PEN American Center, advocating for the freedom of expression around the world.
CG FEWSTON has travelled across continents and visited such places as Mexico, the island of Guam, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Taipei and Beitou in Taiwan, Bali in Indonesia, and Guilin and Shenzhen and Beijing in China. He also enjoys studying and learning French, Vietnamese, Cantonese and Mandarin.
CG FEWSTON earned an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership and Administration (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors) from Stony Brook University, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Fiction from Southern New Hampshire University, where he had the chance to work with wonderful and talented novelists like Richard Adams Carey (author of In the Evil Day, October 2015; and, The Philosopher Fish, 2006) and Jessica Anthony (author of Chopsticks, 2012; and, The Convalescent, 2010) as well as New York Times Best-Selling novelists Matt Bondurant (author of The Night Swimmer, 2012; and, The Wettest County in the World, 2009, made famous in the movie Lawless, 2012) and Wiley Cash (author of A Land More Kind Than Home, 2013; and, This Dark Road to Mercy, 2014).
Among many others, CG FEWSTON’S stories, photographs and essays have appeared in Sediments Literary–Arts Journal, Bohemia, Ginosko Literary Journal, GNU Journal (“Hills Like Giant Elephants”), Tendril Literary Magazine, Prachya Review (“The One Who Had It All”), Driftwood Press, The Missing Slate Literary Magazine (“Darwin Mother”), Gravel Literary Journal, Foliate Oak Magazine, The Writer’s Drawer, Moonlit Road, Nature Writing, and Travelmag: The Independent Spirit; and for several years he was a contributor to Vietnam’s national premier English newspaper, Tuoi Tre, “The Youth Newspaper.”
You can read more about CG FEWSTON and his writing at
A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN won GOLD for Literary Classics’ 2015 best book in the category under ”Special Interest” for “Gender Specific – Female Audience”…
Finalist in the 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Romantic Fiction…
Finalist in the 2015 Mystery & Mayhem Novel Writing Contest…
Praise for A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN:
“Fewston delivers an atmospheric and evocative thriller in which an American government secret agent must navigate fluid allegiances and murky principles in 1970s Tehran… A cerebral, fast-paced thriller.”
“A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN is a thrilling adventure which takes place in pre-revolutionary Tehran. Author CG FEWSTON provides a unique glimpse into this important historical city and its rich culture during a pivotal time in its storied past. This book is so much more than a love story. Skillfully paired with a suspenseful tale of espionage, A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN is a riveting study of humanity. Replete with turns & twists and a powerful finish, FEWSTON has intimately woven a tale which creates vivid pictures of the people and places in this extraordinary novel.”
CG FEWSTON‘s new novel,
A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN, was published on April 2, 2015 —
10 years to the day of the publication
of his first novella, A FATHER’S SON (April 2, 2005)
“Thus one skilled at giving rise to the extraordinary
is as boundless as Heaven and Earth,
as inexhaustible as the Yellow River and the ocean.
Ending and beginning again,
like the sun and moon. Dying and then being born,
like the four seasons.”
found in Sources of Chinese Tradition, p 5
- Shadows Everlast (cgfewston.me)
- The Man with the Golden Gun (1965) by Ian Fleming (cgfewston.me)
- A Good Man is Hard to Find and Sufjan Stevens (mysteriesandmanners.wordpress.com)
- My Interview with Author K.P. Ambroziak (aprillwood.wordpress.com)
- An Analysis of Self-Love from John Collier’s “The Chaser” (christliteratureculture.wordpress.com)
- A Farewell to Arms (1929) by Ernest Hemingway (cgfewston.me)
- The Potion Mistress – a short tale of the Lochie Witches (karensoutar.wordpress.com)