Thursday, November 03, 2016

My New Book: The Greatest 19th Century American Short Stories

This is a collection of the 50 greatest American short stories of the 19th Century. Who says they are the greatest? It’s a matter of consensus.

The Greatest 19th Century American Short Stories by [Leary, Stephen]Many short story collections are published with a single editor choosing a list of stories s/he thinks are the best. For example, the famous American writer John Updike edited a collection called The Best American Short Stories of the Century. The “Century” in that title refers to the 20th Century.

Who knew more about American literature than Updike? Yet I found myself disappointed by some of his selections—puzzled why he chose particular stories by famous authors rather than others. When Updike chose a list of “best” short stories, that was his own personal opinion—and not many opinions were better-informed than his. Yet, I found myself constantly second-guessing his choices. No matter who the editor is, readers will disagree. Every editor will compile a different list.

One person’s subjective opinion—no matter who holds it—is nothing more than that. My goal with this collection was to eschew a subjective opinion and establish an objective fact. I wanted a collection of the greatest 19th Century American short stories that wasn’t the result of nothing more than my own personal opinion, but a consensus of scholars and lovers of literature throughout the years. That is what you have in your hands. This is that consensus, not the opinion of just me or any other individual.

The advantage of judging the worth of older stories such as these is that so much time has passed since they were first published. The scholarly dust has settled substantially, at least on those authors and their stories that have always been considered worthy of inclusion in anthologies and literary criticism. A consensus has been reached on many stories considered the finest produced during the 19th Century.

The list is fluid and, with time, a few of the titles on the list of top 50 books could change, depending on a future shift in consensus. But after a century, I think scholars and the public have spoken, and we know with a good deal of certainty which stories are considered the greatest from the 19th Century.

In the book, I name the greatest American short story of the 19th Century, based on the research.

NOTE: The book includes links to all 50 stories at Amazon's Kindle bookstore. I didn't include the full-text of the stories because they are public domain and I had no idea publishing public domain content was such a big issue. Apparently Amazon and all the others are not publishing public domain content, due to a glut already in the marketplace.

My Amazon AUTHOR Page is HERE.

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