Last September, during a flurry of voting in our Reader’ Choice survey, Folio readers picked their favourite short stories from a distinguished shortlist. The resulting anthology celebrates some of the greatest short fiction ever written in a wide-ranging showcase of classic and contemporary works from around the world.
There are celebrated writers from the 19th century – Edgar Allan Poe (‘The Tell-Tale Heart’), Charles Dickens (‘The Signalman’) and Anton Chekhov (‘Gooseberries’) – as well as modern masters, such as Dorothy Parker (‘The Waltz’) and Octavia E. Butler (‘Speech Sounds’).
Bound in blocked metallic paper
Set in Bembo with Baker Signet as display
Frontispiece and 7 colour illustrations, including 1 double-page spread
Die-cut slipcase lined in black paper
9½˝ x 6¼˝
Bringing together the best of the genre
Experimental, accessible and dynamic, short stories allow readers to dip into different genres and eras and explore new writers. The story also offers writers immense freedom; the opportunity to flex their creative muscles and hone their craft. The eclectic nature of this anthology will enthral short-fiction enthusiasts and introduce new readers to the genre. In her humorous and quirky introduction, Yiyun Li proposes the analogy of the stories arriving like guests invited to supper: ‘How do you seat seventeen great stories for a stimulating dinner party? By their authors’ last names, alphabetically, by (…) their authors’ personalities?’ In the interest of parity, we opted for chronological order, introducing this collection of literary luminaries as a timeline of great short fiction, from Nikolai Gogol’s ‘The Calash’, first published in 1836, to Hilary Mantel’s ‘The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher’, published almost two centuries later in 2014.
Too many great names to mention
It’s a roll-call of talent and, although no entry can be elevated beyond another, we must draw attention to some noteworthy inclusions. ‘A Little Cloud’ is James Joyce’s story within a story, Dorothy Parker’s dramatic monologue ‘The Waltz’ brings feminist issues to the fore, and Franz Kafka’s dark tale of a professional faster, ‘The Hunger Artist’, is full of powerful symbolism. Dickens’s ghost story is a classic of the genre, Octavia E. Butler’s ‘Speech Sounds’ is an award-winning sci-fi rollercoaster, and Hilary Mantel’s ‘The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher’ is a parody of a 1980s moment, packed with pithy dialogue and comic undertones.
We asked Paul Blow to select the stories that he would like to illustrate. The result is seven striking poster-style illustrations, using a limited palette that evokes the era and theme of each entry. The work is atmospheric and deeply immersive: an art exhibition that reveals itself as the anthology unfolds.
‘The Calash’, Nikolai Gogol
‘The Tell-Tale Heart’, Edgar Allan Poe
‘The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County’, Mark Twain
‘The Signalman’, Charles Dickens
‘The Necklace’, Guy de Maupassant
‘The Body-Snatcher’, Robert Louis Stevenson
‘Gooseberries’, Anton Chekhov
‘A Little Cloud’, James Joyce
‘Bliss’, Katherine Mansfield
‘A Hunger Artist’, Franz Kafka
‘Hills Like White Elephants’, Ernest Hemingway
‘The Waltz’, Dorothy Parker
‘The Lost Decade’, F. Scott Fitzgerald
‘The Library of Babel’, Jorge Luis Borges
‘The Lady of the House of Love’, Angela Carter
‘Speech Sounds’, Octavia E. Butler
‘The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher’, Hilary Mantel
About Yiyun Li
Yiyun Li is the author of three novels, The Vagrants (2009), Kinder Than Solitude (2014) and Where Reasons End (2019), and two shortstory collections, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers (2005) and Gold Boy, Emerald Girl (2010), as well as the memoir, Dear Friend, From My Life I Write to You in Your Life (2017). She has won literary awardsincluding the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, the Guardian First Book Award and the EFG Sunday Times ShortStory Award, and was listed among Granta’s 21 Best of YoungAmerican Novelists 2007. Her stories have been published in The New Yorker, the Paris Review and elsewhere. She is a MacArthur Fellow and a Professor of Creative Writing at Princeton University.
About Paul Blow
Paul Blow is a Dorset-based illustrator whose work has appeared in the Guardian, the Independent, the New York Times, Greenpeace magazine and The New Scientist, among many other publications. His work for The Folio Society includes illustrations for Eric Ambler’s classic espionage novels The Mask of Dimitrios (2011) and Epitaph for a Spy (2013).
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