Monday, September 15, 2014

"Beware of Trying to Rouse Our Pity and Terror with a Penny Whistle"

Edited by Frederick Stuart Greene (1870-1939).
Dodd, Mead & Co.
1917. 385 pages.
Anthology: 13 stories.
Online HERE and HERE.

Introduction - Edward J. O'Brien
1. Vance Thompson - "The Day of Daheimus"
2. Dana Burnet - "Rain"
3. Stacy Aumonier - "Old Fags"
4. Conrad Richter - "The Head of His House"
5. Vincent O'Sullivan - "The Abigail Sheriff Memorial"
6. Ethel Watts Mumford - "Easy"
7. Wadsworth Camp - "The Draw-Keeper"
8. Richard Matthews Hallet - "The Razor of Pedro Dutel"
9. Robert Alexander Wason - "Knute Ericson’s Celebration"
10. Mrs. Belloc Lowndes - "The Parcel"
11. Will Levington Comfort and H. A. Sturtzel - "Back O’ The Yards"
12. William Ashley Anderson - "The End of the Game"
13. Frederick Stuart Greene - "The Black Pool"

Who says every story has to have a happy ending? Certainly not the authors listed above, who deliberately set out to write stories with downbeat resolutions.
[Full review] . . . that insatiable devourer and tolerably complacent judge of the American short story, Mr. Edward J. O'Brien, . . . contributes an Introduction to certain feats of literary frightfulness assembled under the title "The Grim Thirteen." We are to take the collection as an exhibit in the supposititious case of the public (or the story-writer) against the American magazine editor, with his prejudice against "the unhappy ending." To qualify, each of these stories must be by an author whose work of another sort has been acceptable, and must have been rejected by some prominent magazine, on the sole ground of its grimness or unpleasantness.
Mr. O'Brien thinks it very sad that there should be any such principle or practice of rejection, and shudders at the thought of what Poe's fate might have been had he been born a generation too late. This is of a piece with his assumption not only that the American short story is our great contribution to literature, but that its masterpieces are now being produced in bulk.
We agree that the magazines are over-squeamish and over-timid about work of this sort. But we think they would be right in exacting of it far higher qualities of sincerity and force than of the amiable, more or less heartening product with which it must compete.
The day of artificial horrors—the day from which the genius of Poe flowered—we are well enough done with. Writers of talent and ingenuity may safely play upon our good-humored interest and easy sentiment: let them beware of trying to rouse our pity and terror with a penny whistle.
There is not a story in this group which can be fairly laid up against the editors who rejected them, not one with the indubitable touch of genius to lift it from the "grim" to the tragic. Half of them are written in the same style, the American Magazine or, let us say, Saturday Evening Post style, and might have been written by the same brisk, ingenious hand. — "Echoes and Interventions," THE NATION (December 20, 1917)
[Excerpts] An interesting experiment in the literary world is the publication of a book entitled The Grim Thirteen. It is made up of thirteen short stories that because of unconventionality of treatment, and not because of lack of merit, were rejected by leading fiction periodicals.  . . .
. . . It all grew out of a discussion as to whether, if Poe were living to-day, the American magazines would publish his stories. The general opinion of the gathering, story writers themselves, was that they would not. There is a taboo, it was maintained, against grim or gruesome stories in editorial circles, American editors believing that the public demand the happy ending.  . . .
. . . The thirteen short stories in The Grim Thirteen are examples of sincere imagination, unhampered by editorial considerations. They went their appointed way to the magazines and were found "unavailable," showing that these thirteen writers at least have found that some of their finest imaginative work could not achieve publication without modification.  . . .
 . . . We have heard it said that cross-sections of life, projected at random, are good "realism." But we ourselves are old-fashioned enough to like a little art . . . Possibly we are guilty of the modern sin of class-consciousness, possibly we are too conventional in our liking for technique and too unappreciative of pure psychology . . . . — "Chronicle and Comment: 'The Grim Thirteen' - The Short Story in America - Unhampered Imagination - One of the 'Thirteen' - Rejected Imagination," THE BOOKMAN (October 1917)
[Full review] A collection of thirteen gloomy little stories, the editor of the volume pluming himself on the fact that they all end badly. Mrs. Belloc Lowndes's contribution concerning a village in Champagne is almost too terrible for the average reader to be able to bear. — THE SPECTATOR (18 January 1919)
To recap. In his introduction, editor Fredrerick Stuart Greene explains, "In the selection of these thirteen stories, the first condition which each story had to meet was that of repeated rejection by American magazines. The thirteen stories which you are about to read have been tabooed by American editors, because they believe that you do not like realism, or unhappy romance." How deliciously gloomy! but can they possibly live up to such a lofty billing? . . . — VAULT OF EVIL Message Board
Category: General fiction (grim variety)

No comments:

Post a Comment