On this Lit Show, Joe Fassler speaks with Lorin Stein and Sadie Stein–the Editor and Deputy Editor of the Paris Review–about their new fiction anthology.
In order to create Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story, the editors turned to 20 distinguished masters of the form. They asked each author to consult the the venerable magazine’s 60-year archive, choose a favorite fiction, and introduce it for the book. The result? A collection that’s diverse and freewheeling, ungoverned by any dominant aesthetic or approach.
“The editors have never believed that there was one single way to write a short story,” Stein and Stein write in their introduction. “We’ve never espoused a movement or school….We think every good story writes its own rules and solves problems of its own devising.”
The earliest story is Evan S. Connell’s wry “The Beau Monde of Mrs. Bridge,” chosen by Wells Tower, a wry and affecting skewering of fifties primness. The most recent is Mary-Beth Hughes’ “Pelican Song,” chosen by Mary Gaitskill, in which a young woman laments–and becomes complicit in–her stepfather’s abuse of her mother. A whole world lies in between these bookends: stories that span from the understated mania of Jane Bowles to Denis Johnson’s livid, nightmarish jazz. This is as good a guide to the diversity and range of postwar American fiction as we’re likely to get.
Lorin Stein and Sadie Stein discussed the process of assembling Object Lessons; the book’s many takeaways for writers, young and old; and the short story’s ongoing importance in the literary arts.
Joe Fassler conducted this interview from the Paris Review offices in New York.
Excerpt: The Paris Review’s editors discuss OBJECT LESSONS, their new and highly-varied anthology of great stories from the magazine. Loren Stein recalls the way he would have wanted this book as a young writer; Sadie Stein addresses curation in the digital age.