Short stories collections are really hard to write about. Many people dislike short stories; my theory is that most people, once they get invested in characters and settings, want the stories to continue. To me, a short story is a just a moment captured in time with these characters, an introduction. Sometimes as a reader I want more.
Edith Wharton is one of those rare writers that was equally good at writing both short stories and full-length novels. Some of her novels are among my favorites; as are some of her short stories. This collection, published by NYRB Classics, features twenty stories that are all set in New York, or includes characters that are New Yorkers.
Some of her stories are sad, some are extremely funny. Many of them are deliciously ironic, and she was especially good at ghost stories. This collection includes all of these, and are selected from those published at beginning of her career to works published near the end. It begins with "Mrs. Manstey's View," her very first published short story, and ends with "Roman Fever," from her last short story collection.
"Roman Fever" is possibly Wharton's most famous short story and one of my personal favorites. This was one in the collection I had actually read before, but I never get tired of it. It's the story of two New York society ladies who meet unexpectedly while in Rome with their grown daughters. They sit on the terrace of restaurant, admiring the view, and the reader learns the history of their complicated relationship. The ending is deliciously ironic, and I'll say no more. It's quite short so if you have a few minutes do click on the link and read it -- tell me in the comments if you liked it, but don't give the ending away!!
My other favorites in the collection are mostly ironic or funny. They include "Expiation," an amusing tale about writers in the same family; "Diagnosis," about a wealthy man who has recently discovered the truth about his illness; and "The Pomegranate Seed," which is one of the ghost stories. The only one I really didn't care for was "The Long Run," which, as the name implies, seemed to go on forever.
Unfortunately, this collection does not include "Xingu," my other favorite of her stories, about a pretentious group of women who attend a "Lunch Club" to become more cultured. I reread the story today before I finished this posting, and I suppose it wasn't included because it really doesn't have a New York connection. It's still really funny though, and definitely worth reading. Many of Wharton's works are available free online through Project Gutenberg, so you can just click on the links and start reading if you're curious. They're really worth trying, even if you're not willing to tackle a 450 page book with twenty stories in it.
This book counts toward my Back to the Classics Challenge and is one of the alternate reads for my TBR Pile Challenge.