Not surprisingly I get quite a few titles through for review here at RobAroundBooks, and as an incurable bibliophile I love receiving every single one of them (which is code for ‘keep em coming’ publisher friends )). However, once in a while a book turns up that really blows me away, and makes me appreciate what I do even more than usual, and the latest arrival to fit that bill doesn’t get much better (potentially) or bigger than this close to 2-inch thick tome of short stories from The Great Books Foundation.
Weighing in at a wrist numbing, and mailman tiring 704 pages, The Short Story Omnibus consists of 37 specially selected stories from four different forms – short story, sudden fiction (completely new to me), novella and graphic story, in a selection that spans 150 years of literature. Très bien? It would certainly seem so, but to whet the appetite even more here’s what a portion of the cover blurb says:
“…This anthology brings together some of the best short stories ever written. These are the ones we return to again and again because they delight us and challenge our interpretive capacity. This collection also demonstrates the myriad styles and diverse forms that have emerged over the past 150 years. The short story continues to evolve, and this collection demonstrates the genre’s unfolding possibilities like no other anthology before it.”
Wow, stirring stuff, but before I offer any more forethoughts on The Short Story Omnibus, I should really tell you a little something about The Great Books Foundation. Founded in 1947 by a couple of University of Chicago educators, the Great Books Foundation is a non-profit organisation whose main focus is in the promotion of reading and discussion of classic and contemporary texts, for the purposes of learning across all ages. It’s a superbly worthwhile cause and through their efforts the Great Books Foundation have developed a method of group-based learning called Shared Inquiry, which is based around that reading and questioning of literary texts. Not surprisingly, The Great Books Foundation explains it a whole lot better than I ever could, so I invite you to go along to their website so they can tell you themselves.
So back to The Short Story Omnibus, and my initial impressions are hugely favourable (as you may have already guessed )). The stories all look to be well considered, with something of interest for almost everyone. The stories seem to encompass various cultures, and they range from the works of classic authors such as Honoré De Balzac and Edgar Allan Poe, to stories from more modern-day writers such as Rachel Cusk and Rohinton Mistry (a full list of the included stories can be found on the web page). From the outset I’d like to say that it’s nice to see such a wide time span of short stories presented in one volume. It not only provides a better snashot of the development of the short story, it also gives the anthology more worth as it’s not just a simple rehash of public domain material, which many other short story anthologies appear to be.
The layout of the anthology, which consists mainly of short stories, with a handful of ‘sudden fiction’ stories, two novellas and a trio of graphic stories, is also superb. The pages are designed with a typeface big enough to make reading comfortable, and each story is accompanied by a brief author bio at the start, and a series of model Shared Inquiry reader questions at the end; all of which rounds them off really nicely and gives each story added value and learning potential.
Well I guess that’s about all I can really say about The Short Story Omnibus for the time being, at least until I start reading it. As I’m going to be adding all of the stories which I haven’t already read in this anthology to my short story reading challenges, together with providing a general review, you’re going to be hearing me talking about The Short Story Omnibus quite a lot over the coming weeks, so keep your eyes open for that. Meanwhile, if I’ve tempted you enough, and you’re interested in purchasing this 2-inch thick tome of short story reading goodness to call your own, then get yourself along to the Great Books Foundation website and order up a copy.
Publisher: The Great Books Foundation
Published: March 2009 (US)
Pages: 704 pages