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Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules

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A must-have for the fans of the #1 bestselling author of Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris, a collection of his favorite short fiction from Flannery O'Connor to Tobias Wolff. A bestseller in its own right and a must-have for fans of the #1 bestselling author David Sedaris, a collection of his favorite short fiction. David Sedaris is an exceptional reader. Alone in his A must-have for the fans of the #1 bestselling author of Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris, a collection of his favorite short fiction from Flannery O'Connor to Tobias Wolff. A bestseller in its own right and a must-have for fans of the #1 bestselling author David Sedaris, a collection of his favorite short fiction. David Sedaris is an exceptional reader. Alone in his apartment, he reads stories aloud to the point he has them memorized. Sometimes he fantasizes that he wrote them. Sometimes, when they’re his very favorite stories, he’ll fantasize about reading them in front of an audience and taking credit for them. The audience in these fantasies always loves him and gives him the respect he deserves. David Sedaris didn’t write the stories in Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules . But he did read them. And he liked them enough to hand pick them for this collection of short fiction. Featuring such notable writers as Lorrie Moore, Alice Munro, Joyce Carol Oates, Jean Thompson, and Tobias Wolff, Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules includes some of the most influential and talented short story writers, contemporary and classic. Perfect for fans who suffer from Sedaris fever, Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules will tide them over and provide relief. 2 hrs 56 mins


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A must-have for the fans of the #1 bestselling author of Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris, a collection of his favorite short fiction from Flannery O'Connor to Tobias Wolff. A bestseller in its own right and a must-have for fans of the #1 bestselling author David Sedaris, a collection of his favorite short fiction. David Sedaris is an exceptional reader. Alone in his A must-have for the fans of the #1 bestselling author of Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris, a collection of his favorite short fiction from Flannery O'Connor to Tobias Wolff. A bestseller in its own right and a must-have for fans of the #1 bestselling author David Sedaris, a collection of his favorite short fiction. David Sedaris is an exceptional reader. Alone in his apartment, he reads stories aloud to the point he has them memorized. Sometimes he fantasizes that he wrote them. Sometimes, when they’re his very favorite stories, he’ll fantasize about reading them in front of an audience and taking credit for them. The audience in these fantasies always loves him and gives him the respect he deserves. David Sedaris didn’t write the stories in Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules . But he did read them. And he liked them enough to hand pick them for this collection of short fiction. Featuring such notable writers as Lorrie Moore, Alice Munro, Joyce Carol Oates, Jean Thompson, and Tobias Wolff, Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules includes some of the most influential and talented short story writers, contemporary and classic. Perfect for fans who suffer from Sedaris fever, Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules will tide them over and provide relief. 2 hrs 56 mins

30 review for Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules

  1. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    They put David Sedaris's name all over this thing. It wasn't until after I had checked it out that I realized it was not just Sedaris and it was not his usual non-fiction storytelling. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is kind of like that feeling when you pick up a glass expecting it to be full and it is actually empty; a bit disorienting at first, but I eventually realized what I was dealing with and settled in. The stories were okay. Basically just low motivation, day to day kind of They put David Sedaris's name all over this thing. It wasn't until after I had checked it out that I realized it was not just Sedaris and it was not his usual non-fiction storytelling. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is kind of like that feeling when you pick up a glass expecting it to be full and it is actually empty; a bit disorienting at first, but I eventually realized what I was dealing with and settled in. The stories were okay. Basically just low motivation, day to day kind of stuff. A bit artsy at points. One of them was a little hard to follow. I can sum it up not by saying that they were great short stories, or that they were bad short stories, they were just short stories - nothing more, nothing less. Do I recommend it? If you are doing a book challenge and you need to fill a short story quota, this is perfect (and not too long overall if you are not a big short story fan). If you are here reading this review because you are a Sedaris fan, definitely know that this is not typical Sedaris - his name prominently displayed on the cover is pure marketing strategy.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I gave this book to a friend for her birthday a few years ago and she mentioned that while she loved the book, it was proving to be life threatening. She was reading while walking, while eating, while riding her bike...it was an accident waiting to happen. The thing about this collection of short stories (chosen, not authored, by David Sedaris) is that every time I finished a story I would think, "Oh definitely. That is my favorite short story EVER." Then, I would read the next story and find I gave this book to a friend for her birthday a few years ago and she mentioned that while she loved the book, it was proving to be life threatening. She was reading while walking, while eating, while riding her bike...it was an accident waiting to happen. The thing about this collection of short stories (chosen, not authored, by David Sedaris) is that every time I finished a story I would think, "Oh definitely. That is my favorite short story EVER." Then, I would read the next story and find that I had fallen hopelessly in love with a completely different short story. My absolute, top of the line favorites? "The Girl with the Blackened Eye" had me sobbing. The narrator uses a casual tone to discuss a traumatic event from her childhood. The story is chilling, honest, and surprising. Every time I finish this story, I end up thinking about it for weeks afterward. In "Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk..." Lorrie Moore crafts a humorous and heartbreaking story about a woman whose child has a tumor. I know, hilarious right? Lorrie Moore managed to make me laugh and cry, multiple times. "Bullet in the Brain" by Tobias Wolff is a very short and beautiful story about a book critic in a bank hold up. I can't say anything else about why I love this story without spoiling it. Sorry. "In the Cemetery Where Al Jolsen is Buried" by Amy Hempel makes me cry a lot too. It's another funny and heartbreaking story about dying (Am I a little obsessesed? Maybe. So?) and is told from the perspective of the best friend. Sad pants, people. Sad pants. I could easily talk about why I love (or have a mad crush on) all of these stories, but I will just let you read it yourself. Plus, a portion of the money raised from the sales of this book benefits 826, which is a non-profit writing center that helps students in cities all across this great nation.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Miranda Reads

    I just can't connect to these stories. Review to come. Audiobook Comments Read by the author - love it when this happens!! YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Snapchat @miranda.reads Happy Reading!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Grace

    As a big fan of David Sedaris, let me just say that I am very very glad he has not been able to better emulate his writing heroes. Because for a very talented storyteller, the man has appalling taste in stories. Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules is a Sedaris-edited short story collection. Sedaris makes clear in the book's introduction that these are stories by authors he particularly loves, and that he aims to be as great as he thinks they are. Oh dear. The version I listened to is As a big fan of David Sedaris, let me just say that I am very very glad he has not been able to better emulate his writing heroes. Because for a very talented storyteller, the man has appalling taste in stories. Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules is a Sedaris-edited short story collection. Sedaris makes clear in the book's introduction that these are stories by authors he particularly loves, and that he aims to be as great as he thinks they are. Oh dear. The version I listened to is abridged--quite abridged, actually. It only contains five of the 17 stories included in the print version. The first story, Patricia Highsmith's "Where the Door Is Always Open and the Welcome Mat Is Out" (read by Cherry Jones) is one of the dullest 45 minutes I have ever spent. A plodding account of a neurotic middle-aged woman preparing for a a visit from her judgmental sister, the story seems to be intended to be farcical, but it's just. not. funny. I ended up with no feeling for either of the two characters, no laughs, no thoughts, and mainly amazing relief when it was finally over. On the other end of the book is "Cosmopolitan," by Akhil Sharma (read by the author), and it similarly dragged and irritated me. It's the story of a newly separated Indian-American man who falls in love with his neighbor, and again I felt nothing but distaste for the characters and there wasn't actually any plot with which to get involved. Bah. The only high point of the audio collection was Mary-Louise Parker's reading of Amy Hempel's "In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried." A brief interlude into the life of a young woman watching her best friend die, the story is well-written and completely heartbreaking, and Parker's reading is excellent (better, even, than the reading Sedaris himself does of a silly story about a substitute teacher, "Gryphon," by Charles Baxter). I like David Sedaris. I like short stories, especially in audio format. I was really, really excited about this little collection. So it's difficult to admit how much it sucked, but it really, really did. The print version may well be better (though it really seems to me that short stories are meant to be read aloud), as it includes some stories I know are of higher quality, including "The Girl with the Blackened Eye" by Joyce Carol Oates and "Revelation" by Flannery O'Connor, as well as an afterward by Sarah Vowell. However, I was so put off by this sampling I probably won't pick it up to see.

  5. 5 out of 5

    melydia

    A friend gave me this, as we are both Sedaris fans. None of this is his work (save the introduction, which was on par with most of his better essays), but I decided to trust his judgment and try something new. As with most collections, the stories were of varying quality. Where the Door is Always Open and the Welcome Mat is Out by Patricia Highsmith, read by Cherry Jones: Mildred is rushing around frantically to prepare for her sister Edith’s visit. The reader was great, but the story itself was A friend gave me this, as we are both Sedaris fans. None of this is his work (save the introduction, which was on par with most of his better essays), but I decided to trust his judgment and try something new. As with most collections, the stories were of varying quality. Where the Door is Always Open and the Welcome Mat is Out by Patricia Highsmith, read by Cherry Jones: Mildred is rushing around frantically to prepare for her sister Edith’s visit. The reader was great, but the story itself was pretty boring. Maybe it was because I just wasn’t all that interested in the characters, or maybe because all the minutia felt excessively detailed. Bullet In the Brain by Tobias Wolff, read by Toby Wherry: A fascinating little vignette that stretches out an instant of time into a fully coherent narrative, and it ended at just the right spot too. Gryphon by Charles Baxter, read by David Sedaris: A new substitute teacher with crazy ideas. Sedaris did an excellent job, which is kind of surprising since he tends to narrate in a sort of monotone, but somehow he managed to get across everything with subtle changes in pitch and inflection. Probably my favorite of the batch. In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried by Amy Hempel, read by Mary-Louise Parker: I’ll be perfectly honest here: I had a whole lot of trouble following this one. Maybe I was just distracted, but I have absolutely no idea what it was about. Cosmopolitan written and read by Akhil Sharma: A somewhat strange tale about an older Indian man attempting to have an affair with his American neighbor. Sharma probably should not have read his own story, as his cadence tended toward the droning, but I still very much enjoyed the story, and the ending made me smile. In all, not a bad collection. These are the sorts of stories we’d read in creative writing classes, which gave me weird flashbacks from time to time, but it was a nice break from the string of novels I’d been listening to lately.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Karen Germain

    A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to see David Sedaris speak at UCLA. In my haste to make sure that I had read all of Sedaris' books, I bought " Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules" on my Kindle. It turns out, that this a collection of Sedaris' favorite short stories and he edited the compilation. I am not the slightest bit disappointed that this wasn't a collection of Sedaris stories, because the selections he picked are fantastic. In fact, this is probably the best collection of A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to see David Sedaris speak at UCLA. In my haste to make sure that I had read all of Sedaris' books, I bought " Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules" on my Kindle. It turns out, that this a collection of Sedaris' favorite short stories and he edited the compilation. I am not the slightest bit disappointed that this wasn't a collection of Sedaris stories, because the selections he picked are fantastic. In fact, this is probably the best collection of short stories that I have ever encountered. Not a bad one in the bunch. Most of them are really depressing and downright hard to read. In particular, "In The Cemetery Where Al Jolsen in Buried" by Amy Hempel and "People Like That are the Only People Here" by Lorrie Moore. Both stories deal with different aspects of cancer and both are honest and heartbreaking. I think the only story that I had previously read, was Jhumpa Lahiri's "Interpreter of Maladies." It's such a well crafted story, that I really enjoyed a second read of it. Really, this is an outstanding short story collection and I cannot praise it enough. Read it!!!

  7. 5 out of 5

    emjay

    Don't get freaked out when you see two stars next to David Sedaris' name...he didn't write the book, he just edited it. But, that's why I was so surprised. It's an interesting collection and not at all what you might assume Sedaris would pick as his favorite short stories. Actually, a lot of them were about death, so not his usual fun topics like midget guitar teachers or christmas whores. But death, or almost dying. So yeah, this is actually a pretty morbid collection of stories. If I could Don't get freaked out when you see two stars next to David Sedaris' name...he didn't write the book, he just edited it. But, that's why I was so surprised. It's an interesting collection and not at all what you might assume Sedaris would pick as his favorite short stories. Actually, a lot of them were about death, so not his usual fun topics like midget guitar teachers or christmas whores. But death, or almost dying. So yeah, this is actually a pretty morbid collection of stories. If I could individually star them I would give 5 stars to two of the stories: "Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri and "Gryphon" by Charles Baxter. Read those two. Oh, but despite the two stars you should buy it because it supports 826NYC.

  8. 5 out of 5

    rachel misfiticus

    I am very happy that I borrowed this book. Although the proceeds go to 826nyc, and that is good, the book itself is a waste of time. The stories within are either ones I have read many times before (i.e."Revelation" Flannery O'Connor*) or are stories that made my eyes contort from boredom (i.e. "The Garden Party" Katherine Mansfield). Sarah Vowell's epilogue explaining 826nyc is so poorly constructed I closed the book after 3 sentences. *I really like O'Connor, but I was hoping for authors who I am very happy that I borrowed this book. Although the proceeds go to 826nyc, and that is good, the book itself is a waste of time. The stories within are either ones I have read many times before (i.e."Revelation" Flannery O'Connor*) or are stories that made my eyes contort from boredom (i.e. "The Garden Party" Katherine Mansfield). Sarah Vowell's epilogue explaining 826nyc is so poorly constructed I closed the book after 3 sentences. *I really like O'Connor, but I was hoping for authors who are more obscure. Authors I wasn't forced to read as a student.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    A really fabulous collection of stories from masters of the craft; Hempel, Baxter and Wolff's are my favorite. The audio version is extremely well done - Sedaris reading "Gryphon" was the best of the bunch. Highly recommended.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Briane Pagel

    Because I'm contrarian by nature, I once came up with a theory as to why you can judge a book by its cover. The theory is this: if I like a cover, I will probably like the book. The reasoning behind it is: someone had to design a cover and to do that they had to at least know something about the book. They then distilled that feeling about the book into an image, and they liked the image (or they wouldn't have created it). If I like the image, I am at least somewhat likely to like the thinking Because I'm contrarian by nature, I once came up with a theory as to why you can judge a book by its cover. The theory is this: if I like a cover, I will probably like the book. The reasoning behind it is: someone had to design a cover and to do that they had to at least know something about the book. They then distilled that feeling about the book into an image, and they liked the image (or they wouldn't have created it). If I like the image, I am at least somewhat likely to like the thinking behind it -- i.e., the book. So I was curious to see if I would like the same kind of stories David Sedaris does. Sedaris, one of my favorite authors, was the inspiration for me to start writing funny versions of my life on here, way back when, and before I stopped doing that so much because it started being kind of repetitious not just of myself, but of other people writing about their lives, as well. As an aside, I've come to realize that if I think something looks picturesque, probably lots and lots of people think that. I've also come to realize that many of the basic 'truths' we think about life -- parenting, etc. -- are 'truths' that everyone else knows, too, and while I still take pictures I like regardless of whether other people are also taking a picture of the same thing [and it's kind of disconcerting, when you stop to take a picture of someone, to see someone else doing that at the same time], I stopped writing about things I think are more or less just the same things everyone is thinking. Anyway, Sedaris is one of my favorite writers, and even if people accuse him of making stuff up, he's funny and his stories have, as Stephen Colbert would say, a 'truthiness' about them; plus, they're unique. They manage to somehow wring a universal feel out of, say, putting a bunch of record albums up around his house to stop birds from flying into it. In Children Playing Before A Statue of Hercules, Sedaris picked some of his favorite short stories of all time to put into an anthology. This, I figure, is as much a cash grab as any of the other ones I complain about on here. After all, the only reason I checked this book out was Sedaris' name on the cover; a random collection of short stories probably wouldn't have risen above the clutter otherwise. But my lack of disdain for the project isn't just because I like Sedaris; it's because unlike most 'cash grabs' this one actually has merit. The only theme joining the stories is that Sedaris liked them all. Beyond that, they are a very disparate set of works. (The audio version, which is the one I had, has only five stories; the print version is longer.) In order of least to most favorite, Cosmopolitan, about a relationship between a neighbor and lonely Indian man whose wife left him after their grown-up daughter moved out, was tedious and felt, to use a word I find apt, typical. The story unfolds in exactly the way you would imagine from that setup, and doesn't contain any surprises; typical stories can be okay, if they're well-done or interesting, but this one wasn't either of those. Where The Door Is Always Open And The Welcome Mat Is Out was enjoyable enough, the story of a sister in New York getting a visit from her sister from Cleveland, and the stress and disappointment of that visit; the whole story takes place in about 12 hours, and is told from the perspective of the New York sister, whose attempts to see her own life as something her sister would approve of are sadly amusing. From there the stories pick up a lot. In The Cemetary Where Al Jolson Is Buried, about the last meeting between two friends, one of whom is dying, is funny until it's not, and was one of those short stories that stick in my mind. Gryphon, about an unusual substitute teacher who believes in angels and tells students' fortunes was the same; in the latter, the story is told from the perspective of a student in the small town, one who clearly wants the world to be magical the way the teacher says it is, even though he knows deep down that it's not. The best story is the shortest: Bullet In The Brain, about a man who happens to be in a bank when the bank robbers get there, is a classic, and I won't spoil it for you by telling you why other than to say the title is not a metaphor of any sort, but quite literal. So: 80% matchup between me and Sedaris on stories we like, which actually is about what I expected when I first began the book, which I correctly judged by its cover.

  11. 4 out of 5

    John

    I'm not a regular reader of fiction, but when I find an author I enjoy, I tend to read the entire collection of his/her work. I love David Sedaris's humor and writing, so purchased this along with several of his other books. When I learned that this was "just" a collection of his favorite short stories instead of his own words, I was disappointed. That feeling of disappointment continued through about half of the stories in Hercules, some of which I had to force myself to finish, and one of I'm not a regular reader of fiction, but when I find an author I enjoy, I tend to read the entire collection of his/her work. I love David Sedaris's humor and writing, so purchased this along with several of his other books. When I learned that this was "just" a collection of his favorite short stories instead of his own words, I was disappointed. That feeling of disappointment continued through about half of the stories in Hercules, some of which I had to force myself to finish, and one of which I just couldn't. There are some strong favorites here, though, by authors I will learn more about. "Interpreter of Maladies" was wonderful. "Where the Door Is Always Open and the Welcome Mat Is Out" appealed to me. "People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk" was exceptionally moving. "Irish Girl" connected with me for reasons I don't understand. "The Girl with the Blackened Eye" was horrifying and riveting. "Bullet in the Brain" was a near-Sedaris ending to the collection that I morbidly enjoyed quite a bit. But the book is an uneven as you'd expect such a collection of random stories and authors to be, and I can't say that I truly enjoyed picking it up every day.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This is a compilation of David Sedaris' favorite short stories by literary greats such as Alice Munro, Flannery O'Connor and Dororthy Parker, just to name a few. With a crowd like this, you can expect stories that will leave you ever so slightly unsettled, such as Tobias Wolff's "Bullet in the Brain" and Lorrie Moore's troubling tromp through a pediatric cancer ward in "People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk." The stories seem to gather eccentric value as the This is a compilation of David Sedaris' favorite short stories by literary greats such as Alice Munro, Flannery O'Connor and Dororthy Parker, just to name a few. With a crowd like this, you can expect stories that will leave you ever so slightly unsettled, such as Tobias Wolff's "Bullet in the Brain" and Lorrie Moore's troubling tromp through a pediatric cancer ward in "People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk." The stories seem to gather eccentric value as the book progresses. They are provocative and probably not best read right before bed. But Sedaris has indeed gathered the best of the best, and each of the stories represents an intricate piece of literary art. But there is another reason to buy this book. All the proceeds benefit 826NYC, an afterschool tutoring organization that also does community outreach by way of writing workshops for young people. Literature to help foster literature-it is a great idea and one worthy of support. |

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alisa Muelleck

    I've listened to a lot of David Sedaris over the years, and I think he writes fantastic prose and memoirs, occasional raunchiness notwithstanding. I don't know that we are of the same mind in many things, but I will say we are of the same mind when it comes to what short stories we like. I honestly loved almost every single story he chose for this collection, and those I didn't love I certainly respect. Since he is so open about so many aspects of his life, it's not a stretch to see what drew I've listened to a lot of David Sedaris over the years, and I think he writes fantastic prose and memoirs, occasional raunchiness notwithstanding. I don't know that we are of the same mind in many things, but I will say we are of the same mind when it comes to what short stories we like. I honestly loved almost every single story he chose for this collection, and those I didn't love I certainly respect. Since he is so open about so many aspects of his life, it's not a stretch to see what drew him to each of these stories, and they are by turns terribly shocking, mysterious, happy, and always great prose. It also has a wonderful introduction - sometimes intros by guest editors can be long and esoteric, but his is a memoir of reading, and it really brings the collection together. Also, it's a great, great nonprofit to be supporting, and I was happy to buy it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    One of the reasons that I love David Sedaris is that he shares my love of reading and books. In his introduction, Sedaris reflected about books and wrote that, in his opinion, "a good one would take me out of myself and then stuff me back in, outsized, now, and uneasy with the fit. This led to a kind of trance that made the dullest work, the dullest life, bearable." And he claimed that "I believed, and still do, that stories can save you." Exactly! David Sedaris wrote the introduction to this One of the reasons that I love David Sedaris is that he shares my love of reading and books. In his introduction, Sedaris reflected about books and wrote that, in his opinion, "a good one would take me out of myself and then stuff me back in, outsized, now, and uneasy with the fit. This led to a kind of trance that made the dullest work, the dullest life, bearable." And he claimed that "I believed, and still do, that stories can save you." Exactly! David Sedaris wrote the introduction to this book and he has picked his favorite short stories to be enjoyed by readers. The authors are as varied as the stories and include Alice Munro, Dorothy Parker, Tobias Wolff, Lorrie Moore, Patricia Highsmith, and Flannery O'Connor. I picked up this book expecting it to be authored by David Sedaris and, after my initial surprise, found myself engrossed in the wonderful short fiction.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    This is such a good collection of short stories! Immediately upon finishing the book, I went back and reread my favorites. I spent most of the book almost-but-not-quite crying. So many feelings!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Amy "the book-bat"

    This was not what I expected. Of course, I didn't read the description of the book, which would explain why. I saw this listed under David Sedaris on Overdrive and thought it was more of his essays, but instead it is a collection of short stories compiled and edited by him. It was still good and entertaining, but in a different way than a collection of just Sedaris's writing would be.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tracey

    Checked this collection out in audiobook form from the library for the 5 hr drive up to my family cottage at the end of July. I'd seen it listed in the library newsletter as a New Arrival and since I enjoy Sedaris' work so much, I thought I'd give it a try. Note that the audiobook version is abridged & contains only 5 of the stories from the print edition. I now own a paperback copy as a pass-along from my Mom. With this book, Sedaris selected examples of writing he has been astounded by, in Checked this collection out in audiobook form from the library for the 5 hr drive up to my family cottage at the end of July. I'd seen it listed in the library newsletter as a New Arrival and since I enjoy Sedaris' work so much, I thought I'd give it a try. Note that the audiobook version is abridged & contains only 5 of the stories from the print edition. I now own a paperback copy as a pass-along from my Mom. With this book, Sedaris selected examples of writing he has been astounded by, in an attempt to both bring attention to the genre and share his love of the form. With the exception of one of the stories, I was astounded as well. All the authors were new to me (tho I'd heard of Highsmith) and I have added some names & books to my To Read list thanks to this collection. * "Where the Door is Always Open and the Welcome Mat is Out" by Patricia Highsmith, read by Cherry Jones. The main character, a NYC studio apartment spinster, is anxious about her sister visiting from Cleveland Ohio. A period piece; the details are marvelous, as is the strained conversation between the two. I definitely need to read more short stories by Ms. Highsmith. * "Bullet In the Brain" by Tobias Wolff read by Toby Wherry. The fastidiously sarcastic protagonist is an unfortunate bystander in a bank robbery; we travel with him through the last few moments of his life. Powerful imagery. * "Gryphon" by Charles Baxter read by David Sedaris Oh, how I'd love to be the teacher in this story! A schoolboy in a small town describes a couple of strange days with a substitute teacher. Another author I may have to find out more about. * "In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried" by Amy Hempel read by Mary-Louise Parker A ruefully funny and tragic first person tale of a young woman dealing with the impending death of a friend. Another addition to the To Read list. * "Cosmopolitan" by Akhil Sharma read by the Author Unfortunately, this story didn't really do much for me at all. A middle-aged Western Indian faces the loss of his family thru divorce and growing up; he falls in lust with a semi-eccentric neighbor.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth A

    I'm not a short story fan, so you might be justified in wondering why I read this one. I blame George Eliot. I kept trying various things to pull me out of the Grand Canyon sized reading slump that Middlemarch abandoned me in; I could clearly see the rim but seemed unable to get up there. I'm a Sedaris fan, and his writing almost always makes me smile, so why not try this collection of short stories curated by him? I read somewhere that this audiobook is an abridged collection - it only has 5 of I'm not a short story fan, so you might be justified in wondering why I read this one. I blame George Eliot. I kept trying various things to pull me out of the Grand Canyon sized reading slump that Middlemarch abandoned me in; I could clearly see the rim but seemed unable to get up there. I'm a Sedaris fan, and his writing almost always makes me smile, so why not try this collection of short stories curated by him? I read somewhere that this audiobook is an abridged collection - it only has 5 of the 17 stories in the book - but that's OK with me. If you are a Sedaris fan, you'll totally understand why he loves these stories - they are in his wheel house. 1. Where the Door Is Always Open and the Welcome Mat Is Out by Patricia Highsmith, narrated by Cherry Jones. 3 stars. This is the story of woman in New York getting ready for the arrival of her sister. Classic domestic fiction, with Highsmith's whiff of tension. 2. Bullet In the Brain by Tobias Wolff, narrated by Toby Wherry. 2 stars. A short look at the last moments of a man's life while he robs a bank. 3. Gryphon by Charles Baxter, narrated by David Sedaris. 4 stars. Life went along its usual boring way until a substitute teacher with crazy notions walked in. Sedaris is excellent at narrating this one, and it is my fave of the collection. 4. In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried by Amy Hempel, narrated by Mary-Louise Parker. 3 stars. A story of illness and loss, and the inability to be the person we want to be for others in their time of need. 5. Cosmopolitan written and narrated by Akhil Sharma. 2 stars. This is a strange (Sedaris kind of strange) story of an Indian man and his shapely neighbor. My least fave narration of the lot. All in all, I was pleasantly surprised that I liked this collection as much as I did, and I might seek out the book to read the stories I missed.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Adrianne Mathiowetz

    I've been putting off this review, because it's *hard* to review a bunch of completely unrelated stories by authors who also have no connection (beyond "David Sedaris likes them" -- and for the record, the man has motley tastes). Overall I really enjoyed the book, but there's no basic summary I can give, no message to take home. It was all over the map, from Katherine Mansfield to Tobias Wolff to Dorothy Parker to Jhumpa Lahiri. A collection like this, of equally strong writing from a diverse I've been putting off this review, because it's *hard* to review a bunch of completely unrelated stories by authors who also have no connection (beyond "David Sedaris likes them" -- and for the record, the man has motley tastes). Overall I really enjoyed the book, but there's no basic summary I can give, no message to take home. It was all over the map, from Katherine Mansfield to Tobias Wolff to Dorothy Parker to Jhumpa Lahiri. A collection like this, of equally strong writing from a diverse collection of authors, does give the reader this, however: you can really begin to gauge your general preferences. I like older fiction that gives me a sense of what life was like before I was around to experience it ("The Garden Party", "Where The Door Is Always Open and The Welcome Mat is Out", "Song of The Shirt, 1941"). I like new fiction that is playful with the medium while still striking emotional chords ("The Best of Betty"). And I like Jhumpa Lahiri without being able to categorize why. But! I'm tired of stories about Weird Teachers ("Gryphon"), and Complicated Family Life ("Half a Grapefruit"). I still appreciated the writing, they just . . . don't fit into what I want to be reading right now. Highly recommended to Sedaris fans trying to get into his head with a literary soundtrack to his life, and to just about anyone wondering "what do I like?" -- because hey, it's bound to be in here somewhere.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    The first four stories in this collection are stunning examples of why I don't write fiction; the language, the occurrences, the essential sense of place and time--all are there. While I knew of most of the writers of stories in this collection, I had never taken the opportunity to explore their work. Thank you, David Sedaris, for putting together this collection and introducing it in such a way that I actually laughed out loud during my morning commute after a week away from work; no mean feat, The first four stories in this collection are stunning examples of why I don't write fiction; the language, the occurrences, the essential sense of place and time--all are there. While I knew of most of the writers of stories in this collection, I had never taken the opportunity to explore their work. Thank you, David Sedaris, for putting together this collection and introducing it in such a way that I actually laughed out loud during my morning commute after a week away from work; no mean feat, that. The Patricia Highsmith story (read by Cherry Jones, one of my favorite character actors) placed me solidly in New York City of the late 1940s-early 1950s and in the shoes of a working woman of the era, while a Tobias Wolff one made me gasp with the audacity of subject. Charles Baxter is every bit as wonderful as I'd been led to believe, and Sedaris reads his story beautifully, but it was finally--finally!--experiencing an Amy Hempel short story--read by Mary Louise Parker--that clinched this collection as one of those, "I'm so glad I took the time to listen to this!" revelations. The last story keeps me from rating this "Amazing". It was fine and heartbreaking, but placed at the end of such company...only okay. But that's fine...the other four more than made up for this.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    Let me begin by saying that I only picked this book up at the store because of the name on the cover: David Sedaris. I like a lot of his writing, so I figured I might like what he likes, as well. The trouble is, I don't love most short story collections. So I knew this would be a challenge. Did Sedaris' collection pass? Well, I enjoyed his introduction. I also enjoyed the way the stories connected by sometimes obvious, sometimes tenuous threads. Oftentimes I struggle to understand why stories Let me begin by saying that I only picked this book up at the store because of the name on the cover: David Sedaris. I like a lot of his writing, so I figured I might like what he likes, as well. The trouble is, I don't love most short story collections. So I knew this would be a challenge. Did Sedaris' collection pass? Well, I enjoyed his introduction. I also enjoyed the way the stories connected by sometimes obvious, sometimes tenuous threads. Oftentimes I struggle to understand why stories belong to a given collection, but reading this was like solving a fun puzzle. So as an editor, I have to give Sedaris props: he must read a lot of short stories in order to pull out and select a collection that coheres in such a smooth way. However, as happens with many short story collections, I didn't love most of the stories. There were a few that did both impress and entertain me, such as "The Girl with the Blackened Eye" by Joyce Carol Oates (an author I already know and love), and "In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried" by Amy Hempel, but for the most part I made my way through the book without being "swept away."

  22. 4 out of 5

    AmberBug com*

    I love David Sedaris and I went to see him live... he recommended some books to read and then I found this collection he compiled. I am not a huge fan of short stories. I like them only if the story completes itself and isn't all about symbolism and themes. A few stories I loved and some I couldn't get into (... borderline hated). If you like short stories, David Sedaris is a great author with excellent taste and I am sure this compilation will not disappoint. If not, go into it realizing it's I love David Sedaris and I went to see him live... he recommended some books to read and then I found this collection he compiled. I am not a huge fan of short stories. I like them only if the story completes itself and isn't all about symbolism and themes. A few stories I loved and some I couldn't get into (... borderline hated). If you like short stories, David Sedaris is a great author with excellent taste and I am sure this compilation will not disappoint. If not, go into it realizing it's what it is... that's what got me through it. Thankfully there were a few stories to make the book worthwhile.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I hate to admit this but I bought it because I thought the stories might be funny. I should have not been so foolish for David Sedaris, the editor, is both funny and heartbreakingly sad himself and so it is with the stories. I really liked his selections and cried at one or two or three, maybe four, possibly five. The stories are written by acknowledged masters as Flannery O'Connor, Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Munro and Amy Hempel. Additionally, he included some authors I had never read and some I I hate to admit this but I bought it because I thought the stories might be funny. I should have not been so foolish for David Sedaris, the editor, is both funny and heartbreakingly sad himself and so it is with the stories. I really liked his selections and cried at one or two or three, maybe four, possibly five. The stories are written by acknowledged masters as Flannery O'Connor, Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Munro and Amy Hempel. Additionally, he included some authors I had never read and some I never knew wrote short stories like Patricia Highsmith. I want to read more of Akhil Sharma and am especially eager to read more of Jean Thompson.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    I'm a huge fan of several writers in this collection, but they are NOTHING like David Sedaris. This book left me feeling sex crimed - which is what happens within its pages during one of the worst stories ever put on paper. And though I love Lorrie Moore, I didn't care for her tale about the baby pooping blood. Like the rape tale, it felt too sensational without a very strong concept. Love Sedaris, but after this I would never take reading recommendations from him.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    With David Sedaris as the editor, I was expecting more of the stories to be humorous, and I was surprised to find so many stories that were, frankly, depressing. That didn't prevent me from thoroughly enjoying the collection, though. I suppose it would be difficult to go wrong with that collection of authors. Very enjoyable.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    Listened to the audiobook, which only had 5 of the stories, but I loved them all so much, I'm hesitant to read the rest in print because I seem to have such bad luck with short stories. Once again, thanks David Sedaris!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa

    This was such an odd collection. I really liked 2 of the stores but also really wasn't a fan of the other 3 (I believe). Also I listened to this on audiobook as I do for all of David Sedaris' work and the quality was terrible. Can't say I would recommend this.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Hurt

    The great thing about a collection of short stories is that you get a variety of styles and stories. If you don't like one, skip it. Some of the writing in this collection is wonderful, even if others weren't my cup of tea. But overall, I liked it a lot

  29. 4 out of 5

    Maritess

    Oh my good heavens to mercy what an amazingly entertaining book. Fantastic writing from many different voices, very refreshing.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    I should have known Sedaris would have great taste in short stories...so much more entertaining than picking up the American's Best Short Stories of the Year book!

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