Thursday, May 21, 2009

Friday's "Forgotten" Books: PRIZE STORIES OF 1949: THE O. HENRY AWARDS edited by Herschel Brickell (Doubleday 1949)

From the introduction:

Miss [Eudora] Welty: "I think [Shirley Jackson's] 'The Lottery' probably charges too much for the show inside, whatever it is; it gave me the feeling that I was listening to smart talk from a platform out front (I guess this makes me a wary hick)."

Among the trio comprising the Prize panel, Welty and Ray B. West, Jr. didn't think nearly as much of the Jackson, easily the best known story in this volume today, as did New York Herald Tribune book reviewer John Hutchens, who "thought it the best story in the book." Hence, "The Lottery" lost out in the "prize" competition, to William Faulkner's "A Courtship," Mark Van Doren's "The Watchman," and the now obscure Ward Dorrance's "The White Hound." Brickell himself is of two minds about the story, but one doesn't doubt him when he suggests earlier in the introduction that he considers this one of the best, if not the best, of the nine volumes of the series he'd edited to this time.

ix Introduction Herschell Brickell
1 A Courtship William Faulkner (Seewanee Review, 1948)
17 The Watchman Mark Van Doren (Yale Review 1949)
30 The White Hound Ward Dorrance (Hudson Review 1948)

--more to come as the day progresses, including an amusing quotation from J.D. Salinger, whose "Just Before the War with the Eskimos" is also included...

For more complete FFB entries, pleas see Patti Abbott's blog today, and check back here later for more and better if so inclined. Thanks!

Meanwhile, for purposes of contrast, here's Martha Foley's Best American Short Stories selection from 1948 publications, from the Contento Index and assembled by Dennis Lien:

The Best American Short Stories
1949 ed. Martha Foley (Houghton Mifflin, 1949, hc); [DKL]
1 · Mighty, Mighty Pretty · George Albee · ss Story Sum ’48
19 · The Vacation · Livingston Biddle, Jr. · ss Cosmopolitan Jun ’48
39 · The Farmer’s Children · Elizabeth Bishop · ss Harper’s Bazaar Feb ’48
48 · Under the Sky · Paul Bowles · ss The Partisan Review Mar ’48
55 · My Father and the Circus · Frank Brookhouser · ss The University of Kansas City Review Aut ’48
60 · Exodus · Borden Deal · ss Tomorrow May ’48
72 · Small Miracle · Adele Dolokhov · ss Today’s Woman Nov ’48
81 · The White Hound · Ward Dorrance · ss The Hudson Review Sum ’48
94 · Li Chang’s Million · Henry Gregor Felsen · ss Woman’s Day Nov ’48
100 · Departure of Hubbard · Robert Gibbons · ss Tomorrow May ’48
106 · In the Flow of Time · Beatrice Griffith · ss Common Ground Aut ’48
117 · Evenings at Home · Elizabeth Hardwick · ss The Partisan Review Apr ’48
127 · Castle of Snow · Joseph Heller · ss Atlantic Monthly Mar ’48
135 · A Sound in the Night · Ruth Herschberger · ss Harper’s Bazaar Apr ’48
149 · Jerry · Laura Hunter · ss Mademoiselle Aug ’48
157 · Of the River and Uncle Pidcock · Jim Kjelgaard · ss Adventure Nov ’48
166 · Footnote to American History · Roderick Lull · ss The Virginia Quarterly Review Spr ’48
179 · The Vault · T. D. Mabry · ss The Kenyon Review Win ’48
193 · Vacia · Agnes Macdonald · ss Accent Aut ’48
205 · The Men · Jane Mayhall · ss Perspective Sum ’48
212 · The Heifer · Patrick Morgan · ss Atlantic Monthly Jul ’48
219 · All Prisoners Here · Irving Pfeffer · ss Harper’s May ’48
238 · Episode of a House Remembered · John Rogers · ss Wake Spr ’48
248 · A Girl I Knew · J. D. Salinger · ss Good Housekeeping Feb ’48
261 · Justice Has No Number [Bastia] · Alfredo Segre · nv EQMM Apr ’48
285 · An Island for My Friends · Madelon Shapiro · ss Bard Review May ’48
295 · Children Are Bored on Sunday · Jean Stafford · ss New Yorker Feb 21 ’48
305 · Road to the Isles · Jessamyn West · ss New Yorker Feb 21 ’48

--You'll note the similarity of content in many instances: the Dorrance, a different Salinger, a different Stafford (but both writers represented twice)...

Also notable, the greater eclecticism of the Foley sources (for which she was criticized by some reviewers/carpers...not the major pulp magazine Adventure is represented, as is the literate digest Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, and a mix of slick (largely women's when not gender-neutral "intellectual") and little magazines. Bordon Deal went on to write some memorable crime fiction, though his Tomorrow story probably wasn't one.


George said...

THE LOTTERY generated the most hate mail and subscription cancellations in the history of THE NEW YORKER. Many readers were appalled at its savagery. Of course, THE LOTTERY has gone on to become an iconic story. I even saw a play adapted from it. Very grim.

Todd Mason said...

Yes, there've been at least two television adaptations, as well, and hilarious as well as grim. I have to wonder what the actual complaint from those readers Welty only moreso, did they feel that the ending was basically a betrayal of the buildup, or were they offended that anyone might suggest that Clean Upstanding Americans might mob-murder (as with the Jehovah's Witnesses in Kennebunk, ME, during WW2) oppress--...oh...well, damn it, We're The Good Guys.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Really hard to read a story like this in 1949 and not be shocked. I was when I read it in the sixties, I know. Not even the best of us recognize genius when we first see it.

Todd Mason said...

Well, not all the time, it's true...though the book reviewer did. And then there's the difference between being shocked and acting as if shocking one as a reader is an insult or worse.

George said...

Classic story or not, THE LOTTERY jolted many subscribers to THE NEW YORKER because it was so radically different from the normal fare THE NEW YORKER published at the time. Even after 60 years, the story still has the power to disturb.

Todd Mason said...

Indeed. But what kind of an ass do you have to be to cancel a sub over a story that frightened you?

George said...

Back in 1949, the sensibilities were "delicate."

Todd Mason said...

I suspect more were angry that people not unlike them could be portrayed as callous primitives. Being reminded of Manzanar and Kennebunk and the lynching mobs and such, leaving aside anything to do with the wars, in 1948, probably hit a little too close to the bone, however thick that headbone was.

K. A. Laity said...

Cut a little too close to the bone, surely. But we are seldom the best judge of what will last from our one times: I suspect no one will give a hang about Updike or Mailer in ten years, let alone 100, but I seem to be alone in that opinion.

So instead I'll offer a link to one of my favourite adaptations of "The Lottery" by the fabulous Evan "Milk & Cheese: Dairy Products Gone Bad!" Dorkin.

K. A. Laity said...

And er, clearly that should be "our own times" but I can't type for shit. Must be a writer, eh?

George said...

I agree with K. A. Laity on Updike. Maybe some of his short stories will be read 100 years from now. But I must disagree on Mailer. Mailer wrote a lot of crap to pay his huge alimony payments and expenses, but I'm convinced THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG will be around in 2109.