Probably more precious to me than any other book I put on my bookshelves, are the volumes of collected short stories of particularly treasured authors. If you follow RobAroundBooks then you may have recently shared in my excitement at adding the 2-volume Everyman’s Library collection of Tolstoy’s Shorter Fiction, the Collected Stories of William Trevor (Penguin), The Collected Stories of Lorrie Moore (Faber) and my Russian ‘haul’ which contains a whole host of short story reading goodness…mmmmm.
This week I added another collection, and it’s one of the most exciting for me so far this year. Published only a few days ago by Bloomsbury (October 5th), Presence: Collected Stories is the collected stories of American playwright Arthur Miller.
More renowned for creating plays for stage, radio and the screen, Arthur Miller also penned a stack of notable short stories during his lifetime, which were published in three separate collections (one posthumously following his death in 2005). Presence brings those three collections together into one deliciously desirable volume. Here’s the official ‘Bloomsbury blurb’:
In his lifetime the great American playwright Arthur Miller published two highly regarded collections of stories, I Don’t Need You Any More (1967) and Homely Girl, a Life (1995). Shortly after his death in 2005 a final collection, Presence (2007), appeared. Now, all eighteen of these stories are gathered together in one volume for the first time, including the six from Presence, previously only published in the USA.
In his plays Miller took on the big themes of the day, putting stories of the Depression, wartime deceit and the McCarthy era on stage with an energy and passion not seen before and rarely since. In these stories he turns his attention to smaller, more intimate themes, yet still brings to bear the profound insight, humanism, empathy and wit of his work for the theatre. Including the early, O. Henry Award-winning ‘I Don’t Need You Anymore’, the original story of ‘The Misfits’ on which the film was based, and the beautiful late story ‘ Presence’, this collection offers a fresh perspective on the great writer and his work, here informed by an unusual sensuality and delicacy.
When Homely Girl, a Life was published in America the critic for the New York Times wrote of those three stories: ‘The ability to sum up in clear, unequivocal prose the essence of emotion, a situation, a theme – characteristic of Mr Miller’s best writing – makes the reader wish that these stories were longer, and that there were more of them.’ At last there are.
I really am excited to get my teeth into this collection (as I am with any short story collection of course), because I know how revered Miller was both as a writer and a documenter of his time. I’ll somehow be ‘shoehorning’ the eighteen stories in Presence into my reading schedule. So expect to see me mentioning each of the stories in my ‘reading journal’ as I consume them over the coming days/weeks. And also expect a final review of the collection as a whole soon after that. Like the title says – it’s Miller Time, expect all the fun and excitement with this ‘party’ comes without a single beer bottle in sight.
Bloomsbury Publishing | October 2009 | £25.00 | HARDBACK | 400 PP | ISBN: 9781408801543