Friday, June 16, 2023

FFB: BEDTIME STORIES edited by Diana Secker Tesdell (Everyman's Library/Knopf Borzoi 2011)

Cover image from "The Starlit Hall of the Queen of Night" by Karl Schinkel, 
for staging of Mozart's
The Magic Flute in 1815.

The kind of volume that will only credit the collections the editor found the stories in, not their original publication sites. No introduction nor story headnotes. Most of the works tend to be from Knopf volumes in one way or another...which leads me to suspect these (she edited several for the "Everyman Pocket Classics" series published in quick succession, which definitely sounds like a title more apropos to a 1961 erotica paperback line; they are small-format hardcovers of about the same dimensions as the Viking Portable Library series at midcentury) were produced relatively quickly on assignment...

As the Penguin Random House website puts it:

DIANA SECKER TESDELL is the editor of fifteen Everyman’s Pocket Classic anthologies, including New York Stories, Garden Stories, Christmas Stories, Love Stories, Stories of Art and Artists, Dog Stories, Cat Stories, Horse Stories, Bedtime Stories, Stories of Fatherhood, Stories of Motherhood, Stories of the Sea, Shaken and Stirred: Intoxicating Stories, Wedding Stories, and Stories from the Kitchen, as well as the Pocket Poets anthology Lullabies and Poems for Children.

Back cover painting: from Mary Evans' Picture Library: "Sleeping Balcony";
jacket design by Carol Devine Carlson

· The Thing in the Forest · A. S. Byatt · nv The New Yorker June 3 2002
79 * The Poacher  Ursula K. Le Guin · ss Xanadu ed. Jane Yolen & Martin H. Greenberg, Tor, 1993 (name given as "LeGuin" throughout text, except in the acknowledgments)
101 * The Sailor-Boy’s Tale ·  "Isak Dinesen" (Karen Blixen,   née Dinesen)  · ss Winter’s Tales by Isak Dinesen, Putnam, 1942
117  * The Bottle Imp · Robert Louis Stevenson · nv New York Herald February 8 1891-March 1 1891
155 * The Industrious Tailor * William Maxwell (1908-2000) * ss apparently first published as part of a group of "Improvisations" in All the Days and Nights: Collected Stories (Knopf 1994)
167 * The Dragon * Vladimir Nabokov; translated by Dmitri Nabokov · ss 1924; apparently first published in English in The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov (Knopf 1995)
177 * Night: A Nightmare * Guy de Maupassant · ss (in translation: That Pig Morin and Other Stories, Knopf 1923; confusion as whether translated by Ernest Boyd, as noted on the story's title page here, or Storm Jameson); originally “La Nuit”, Gil Blas, June 14, 1887
185 * Where the Tides Ebb and Flow · Lord Dunsany · ss Saturday Review (UK) May 2 1908, as “The Terrible Dream”
193 * The Night Face Up · Julio Cortázar; translated by Paul Blackburn · ss The New Yorker April 22 1967; dated 1956, the original text's year of publication in Final del juego ("End of the Game") by Mexican publisher Los Presentes, as <<La noche boca arriba>> (literally, "The night mouth above", but properly as translated, in context); in English, End of the Game and Other Stories (Cortázar/Blackburn) published by Random House, 1967
207 * An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge · Ambrose Bierce · ss San Francisco Examiner July 13 1890
222 * The Country of the Blind · H. G. Wells · nv The Strand Magazine April 1904
291 * The Curious Case of Benjamin Button · F. Scott Fitzgerald · nv Collier’s May 27 1922
343 * The Tiger's Bride * Angela Carter * ss apparently first in The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, Gollancz, 1979
369 * The Dancing Dwarf * Haruki Murakami * nv in Japanese in Shinchō ("New Tide") magazine January 1984; translated by Jay Rubin, apparently first published in English in The Elephant Vanishes, a collection, Knopf 1993
397 * Acknowledgments * Anon.
--index derived in large part from The FictionMags Index and ISFDB citations.

Well, assuming my suspicions as to how these volumes came to be are correct, Stecker either proposed or was assigned a book of fantasies and near-fantasies that had the feeling of faerie tales, when not directly inspired by such, or were otherwise tied in with sleep. And, in keeping with these being (I further suspect) meant to be gift-books more than aimed at any other potential market, the selections (aside from a preference for Knopf writers) were to be by writers the average reasonably literate book-browser might well have heard of or even previously read, rather than delving too deeply into those known primarily to fantasy and horror readers, nor the further reaches of surrealism or magical realism. 

As such, it's a reasonably good anthology, with that phrase meant to echo that which I applied to the recent horror/fantasy anthology review (where that book was at least edited with an eye toward use in classrooms, I would reckon); an even larger percentage here of chestnuts, but just enough that various audiences it might appeal to might not have read previously to make a reasonable price for the volume (original list price, $15) a decent bet on Knopf's part, in both US and UK. The Benjamin Button film had been released a few years beforehand, for example, making that story more attractive than "A Diamond as Big as the Ritz"...and so on.

I picked this one (and, I suspect, the four-monster anthology/text mentioned above) out of the last-clearance sales at Borders Book Shops in my area. I was happy to have it, to re-read the simple majority of the contents, and to catch up with a number I had missed.  And presumably paid some small fraction of the original price, as one can still at very least online, and probably in various secondhand shops as one can find. You could do worse. I have a few others of Tesdell's, I believe, which I will probably uncover in weeks to come. 

Gene Wolfe famously referred once to "books of gold" which capture the young reader's imagination and get them to explore further in whatever field the text arises from...I've certainly written about a number of mine over the years of this blog...have you had a similar experience in your young reading? I think I would've liked this book very well, if not loved it as intensely as others I did read, when very you think it would've struck you favorably, then...or now? 

No comments: