Wednesday, September 15, 2021

short stories by Eudora Welty, Robert M. Coates, James Still, and Edita Morris, from THE WORLD WITHIN: FICTION ILLUMINATING NEUROSES OF OUR TIME edited by Mary Louise Aswell (with commentary by Frederic Wertham[!]) (Whittlesey House/McGraw-Hill 1947): Short Story Wednesday

Foreword: The Wing of Madness / Mary Louise Aswell 

Introduction: The Dreams that Heal / Frederic Wertham 

The Story of Serapion / E.T.A. Hoffman (translation uncredited)

Notes from the Underground (excerpt) / Feodor Dostoevsky (translated by Constance Garnett) White Nights and Other Stories Macmillan 1918

The Black Monk / Anton Chekhov (translated by Constance Garnett) Lady with a Dog Macmillan 1917

The Beast in the Jungle / Henry James The Better Sort Scribners 1903

The Orchid and the Bee (excerpt from Cities of the Plain) / Marcel Proust (translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff) Random House 1936

Metamorphosis / Franz Kafka (translation uncredited)

Silent Snow, Secret Snow / Conrad Aiken The Virginia Quarterly Review October 1932

The Door / E.B. White The New Yorker March 25, 1939

I Am Lazarus / Anna Kavan I Am Lazarus Jonathan Cape 1945

The Headless Hawk / Truman Capote Harper's Bazaar October 1945

Caput mortuum / Edita Morris Harper’s Bazaar  June 1941

The Fury / Robert M. Coates  The New Yorker August 15 1936

Mrs. Razor / James Still The Atlantic Monthly July 1945 (reprinted in The Pocket Atlantic edited by Edward Weeks, Pocket Books 1946)

Why I Live at the P.O. / Eudora Welty A Curtain of Green Doubleday 1941

Percy Grimm (an excerpt from Light in August)/ William Faulkner Random House 1932

Mary Louise Aswell, fiction editor of Harper's Bazaar and editor of It's A Woman's World, the anthology of fiction from HB a few years earlier (and the subject of an SSW piece a few weeks ago) continued to do some interesting things in anthologies in the coming years, including after leaving the magazine. This theme anthology counts as one of those, mixing as it does various horror and suspense stories with slightly more mundane sorts of psychodrama, with commentary appended, including probably the most famous single short story by Eudora Welty, "Why I Live at the P.O." Revered as an essentially comic piece, Aswell and, of all people, Frederic Wertham take it as indicative of disordered minds at liberty, as opposed to a not too-exaggerated lampoon of how things go in far too many families, albeit this one living in Mississippi and speaking in the patois associated with that state in midcentury. (If one doesn't recall Wertham, he was perhaps among the most consequential of pop-culture psychiatrists in the '50s, most famous for his attack on comic books Seduction of the Innocent, but also one to take the opportunity to add his not always perceptive commentary to a variety of pop-culture and more tightly-focused expression.) James Still's "Mrs. Razor" is even more like a folk-tale, though also even more steeped in the relatively straightforward details of family life in rural Kentucky at the time, wherein an imaginative, perhaps obsessive little girl imagines herself the bereft wife of a man named Razor, and her parents choose to let her play out the bit of tragedy to get it out of her system. Robert Coates's "The Fury" deals relatively straightforwardly with a man who finds himself tempted by the "wanton" women and particularly girls he encounters on a particular day in his walking through the streets of Manhattan...and how this particular set of encounters is resolved, after some of the local adults take note of his behavior. While Edita Morris's "Caput Mortuum" takes the form of a reverie between father and daughters, and is somewhat less sinister, but not lacking in sorrow, as he recounts the happier (through the haze) days of the past between a then clearly alcoholic man and his similarly-afflicted wife and his daughters' mother...this story is closest to taking the form of a fable to make its point.

As one might note from the balance of the contents, in large part a mix of chestnuts and landmarks of literature, probably for the most part at least as familiar to readers now as they were 3/4 of a century ago, along with work now relatively obscure. It's a book swinging for the fences, and while rather over-earnest while striving for its goal, does manage to gather an impressive mix of fiction in doing so.

This book can be read here.

For more of this week's Short Story Wednesday entries, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

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