When I first came across the article, I thought, I'd like to read these.
September 22, 2014 11:11 AM   Subscribe

Anthology of the Best Short Stories [via mefi projects]

Further background explanation from the Anthologist and Copyeditor, MeFi's own dances_with_sneetches:
When I first came across the article, I thought, I'd like to read these. Yes, the stories are public domain, but not all proved to be readily available. After spending a couple of weeks assembling them from on-line and from brick-and-mortar libraries, I realized I wished this had been done for me. And I wished some of those which were available online but in a crude format had been checked for scanning errors. This process took me several more weeks.

After this was done, I contacted a publisher, Rook's Page Press, an imprint of Açedrex Publishing, and we put this compilation together for a moderate price. (I wanted the price to be a little lower.) The stories total over 550,000 words.

In August Volumes I, II, III became available in electronic format beginning at $5.99.

This month, Volume I became available in print form for approximately $20 (depending on source) and II and III will be available in the next couple of weeks.

The original article named 49 short stories (some are novellas). To round the number up to fifty, I included James Joyce's The Dead, published in 1914 and considered one of the forerunners of modernism.

These stories include many of the acknowledged canon of great short literature along with, what was even better from my perspective, some all-but-lost treats. I fell in love with the work of A. Neil Lyons who seems nearly forgotten today.

I wrote introductions for each of the three volumes including a perspective on literature from the standpoint of 1914 and a look at some of the now archaic forms of writing such as dialect, incorporating poetry and songs into stories.

As an author, it was quite a learning experience to read these. Some have not aged well, but all are masterfully-told stories.

As an added bonus, I have made available online seven stories from a different survey which asked "Which is the Best Short Story by O. Henry?"

I've had a love-meh affair with O. Henry. Loved him as a teen, thought he was too slick and sentimental for a number of years, but have recently become to appreciate him again.

The Best Short Stories in the English Language

Volume I, Table of Contents

A Lodging for the Night—A Story of Francis Villon by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Outcasts of Poker Flat by Bret Harte
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
The Pavilion on the Links by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Maltese Cat by Rudyard Kipling
The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe
The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe
Will o’ the Mill by Robert Louis Stevenson
Wolfert Webber; or, Golden Dreams by Washington Irving
The Ring of Thoth by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County by Mark Twain
The Door in the Wall by H. G. Wells
Gifts of Oblivion by Dorothy Canfield

Volume II, Table of Contents

Markheim by Robert Louis Stevenson
Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Luck of Roaring Camp by Bret Harte
The Brushwood Boy by Rudyard Kipling
Doctor Marigold by Charles Dickens
Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving
An Unfinished Story by O. Henry
The Claws of the Tiger by Gouverneur Morris IV
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
Providence and the Guitar by Robert Louis Stevenson
Bread Upon the Waters by Rudyard Kipling
Marjorie Daw by Thomas Bailey Aldrich
Love in a Mist by A. Neil Lyons
His Wife by Stephen French Whitman
Rebecca and Rowena by William Makepeace Thackeray
Master and Man by Leo Tolstoy
The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant
The Piece of String by Guy de Maupassant
Cinderella by The Brothers Grimm
The Story of Ruth Anonymous

Volume III, Table of Contents.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
The Haunted and the Haunters; Or, The House and the Brain by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
A Municipal Report by O. Henry
The Man Without a Country by Edward Everett Hale
The Merry Men by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Gold Bug by Edgar Allan Poe
The Cricket on the Hearth, A Fairy Tale of Home by Charles Dickens
The Story of Richard Doubledick by Charles Dickens
The Belled Buzzard by Irvin S. Cobb
An Incident by Sarah Barnwell Elliott
A Journey by Edith Wharton
Beyond the Pale by Rudyard Kipling
Without Benefit of Clergy by Rudyard Kipling
The Stolen Story by Jesse Lynch Williams
The Dead by James Joyce
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (8 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
For a little more context. In 1914, the New York Times presented an article wherein twenty-six of the most prominent writers of the day were asked what was the best short story in the English language. Among those naming what they considered the best story were Arthur Conan Doyle, Jack London, Edna Ferber and Booth Tarkington.

The original article is here.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:27 AM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

An excellent project; thanks for posting about it. One nitpick: "The Best Short Stories in the English Language" should not include stories by Guy de Maupassant (or if it's including translated stories, it should include a whole bunch of other writers). This mini-complaint is directed, obviously, not at joseph conrad is fully awesome or dances_with_sneetches but at whichever writer put Maupassant on their list in 1914.
posted by languagehat at 11:32 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

The query did ask for the best short story in English. Forty-four answers were for stories written originally in English and five were from translations. I included the translations for the sake of being complete.

The translated works:

Master and Man from Tolstoy.
The Necklace and A Piece of String from de Maupassant.
Cinderella from the Brothers Grimm.
The Story of Ruth (anonymous)

I hope if one good thing happens as a result of this it would be to get Albert Neil Lyons back on people's radar. I was blown away by his short story, "Love in a Mist." It was also remarkable how he seemed to be so much more obscure than the other chosen writers.

Lines from "Love in a Mist."

Ruth was 'er name. She 'ad 'er whack of sorrows, but kep' 'er sense, an' most of 'er sauce, too.

'Ulking blokes. Meant all right, but slow an' damp. They're 'earts was big enough, I dare say, but slow an' damp, too. I loafed along to a lonely bit of the quay, an' a sort of a funeral feelin' came over me an' turned me silly.

After reciting a sad poem to get money from a crowd:

Most of the men grinned-kinder sickly-but the women all 'owled outright, an' the pennies came bungin' in like a rainstorm. That 'ere was a champion wheeze while it lasted.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:50 AM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

The linked news article notes "Forty-five in all."

Are the additional four titles -- including the translations -- contained in the correspondence appended to the list and discussion?

(MY PDF reader is balking at my keyword searches of the image.)
posted by notyou at 11:58 AM on September 22, 2014

Also -- terrific project! What a splendid thing to conceive of and then execute.
posted by notyou at 11:59 AM on September 22, 2014

The NYT article did a poor job counting. Going through the article author by author, story by story, I compiled a different number of authors queried and a different number of total stories. They said in the article they would not include the foreign language stories in their tally but did include The Story of Ruth. They completely left out O. Henry's Unfinished Story which was mentioned as a choice.
They also included a pair of what I consider "cheats." Any of the Jungle Book stories. Any of the Brer Rabbit stories. (Whole books were left out of my compilation.)

I've queried the New York Times (twice) asking them to do a follow-up with the current best authors being asked the same question. Being the one-hundred year anniversary, I think it would be good timing. They've not responded.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:04 PM on September 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

Fantastic! I love that you folks took the time to do this and make it available.
posted by Wretch729 at 12:10 PM on September 22, 2014

After a lengthy effort compiling the stories, many of which had been optically scanned to create typographical errors [...]

That may be a little unfair; the creation of typographical errors was probably an unintended consequence.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:14 PM on September 22, 2014

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