Posted in Libraries, Short Stories

Why Am I Reading The Best American Short Stories 1951?

Because it was there. On the shelf. At my library.

I picked it up and started reading the introduction by editor Martha Foley and was just a little curious when I read the first sentences:

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question: When will I be blown up?

Right off the bat, I wanted to let Martha know that we’re still here, seventy years later – I mean as a human race.

Does the possibility of getting blown up still exist?

Well – yes, yes it does.

I don’t know whether Martha was a glass half full or a glass half empty kind of person.

And then this interesting little bit of opinion:

…they have been abetted by the practice of “reader surveys.” After the last presidential election fiasco, it seems incredible that the pollsters should still be with us.

I’m assuming Martha is referring to the presidential election of 1948 that resulted in this famous photograph:


Just in case anyone is wondering, Truman actually won.

And yes, Martha, the pollsters are still with us.

Then I was wonderstruck at the book itself. I don’t know if they ever reprint these collections but I’m guessing this one is an original – even with the pocket that held the card that would get stamped with the date of return back before the on-line age.


After the introduction, came the table of contents listing the short stories that Ms. Foley selected as the best of the year. One of them I happened to have recently read: Tennessee Williams’ “The Resemblance Between a Violin Case and a Coffin.”

Continuing to scan, several other stories have been included in my past reading – “In Greenwich There Are Many Gravelled Walks”by Hortense Calisher and “Death of a Favorite” by J. F. Powers.  Also included was Shirley Jackson’s “The Summer People”, a story I’ve heard about frequently but have never read. And then the list included other new-to-me stories by authors I’ve read before such as John Cheever and Bernard Malamud.

By this time, I decided I had to check it out and read the whole thing. The librarian scanned it out because, after all, this really is the twenty-first century. But I was secretly hoping they would stamp a card and put it in the little pocket at the front of the book.

So look forward to a few more posts as I read through the rest of the stories in this collection.

And kudos to the Kenton County Public Library of Kentucky for letting me find this gem.




4 thoughts on “Why Am I Reading The Best American Short Stories 1951?

  1. So cool, I love the history behind older books. Thanks for sharing.

    “The Summer People” is indeed quite excellent, not to hype it up or anything. Pretty creepy stuff.

    Oh man, those stamped cards for check-outs at the back of books sure bring me back to good ol’ days! Pure nostalgia.

    1. It’s been fun not only to read the stories but just to see and hold the book. “The Summer People” is up next and I’m looking forward to it.

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