The Short Story

IN the Best Short Stories of 1935 and the Yearbook of the American Short Story (Houghton Mifflin, $2.50), edited by Edward J. O’Brien, there appear such distinguished names as Whit Burnett, Erskine Caldwell, Morley Callaghan, William Faulkner, the late Sara Haardt, William Wister Haines, Paul Horgan, William Saroyan, and Thomas Wolfe, so that the collection is considerably better balanced than some previous ones. However, out of the twenty-seven stories contained in this volume nineteen are reprinted from such publications as Story, The Plowshare, The Frontier and Midland, Direction, and Mr. O’Brien’s own New Stories, while the remainder have been culled from the so-called ‘quality group.’ Bearing in mind the immediate forerunners of this hook as well as Mr. O’Brien’s statement that ‘ during the past four or five years it is on the left rather than on the right that I have found the most fruitful interpretation of American life by the short-story writer,’ the fact that his choice has been thus apportioned is not especially remarkable, although I for one cannot by reason of this preference consider these selections entirely representative. And I cannot help feeling in reading them that this editor is somewhat more influenced by form than by substance. As to the latter, in his succinct and sensible Introduction Mr. O’Brien laments the increasing effectiveness of ‘the young American’s politics’ in achieving recognition and concludes: ‘I propose to say at once that political preoccupation on the part of the writer will limit his art, render it more and more sterile, and eventually extinguish it, unless his social consciousness serves to communicate richness to his perceptions rather than propaganda to his style.’ Of that statement the present reviewer applauds both substance and form.