New Short Novels

edited by Mary Louise Aswell.Ballantine Books, $2.75; paper, 35¢.
The editor of this collection has come up with four fine examples of the novella, which is still, as when Henry James wrote “Daisy Miller,”a form generally doomed to editorial displeasure. “Ride Out” by Shelby Foote is the story of a Negro horn player, a born artist who lives for his music and dies on the electric chair. Elizabeth Etnier’s “The Willow" is a perfectly-pitched study of the romantic attitude: a young couple in love go to live on a Maine island, achieve their dream, and let it be eroded by their weakness. A talented newcomer, Clyde Miller, makes an impressive debut with “ The Gentle Season.” a complex, skillfully handled Southern tragedy about a small boy’s involvement in his aunt’s rejection ol a suitor he admires, Jean Stafford s “A Winter’s Tale” describes an American girl’s love affair in pre-war Heidelberg in a milieu where false piety goes cheek-byjowl with Nazism: it is a subtly woven story climaxed by a horrifying surprise. The publishers rate a warm tribute for giving the novella a well-deserved break; their courage has resulted in a book of fiction that is truly distinguished.