Complete Short Stories

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9780916583606: Complete Short Stories

Best known for his witty, ingenious novels, Ronald Firbank began his literary apprenticeship as a writer of short stories (or "contes," as he called them), all of which are gathered here for the first time. They were written at a time when the literature of the decadent 1890s was maturing into the modernism of the early twentieth century, a growth reflected here as Firbank works through a variety of styles, genres, and voices, both imitating and subverting the literary models of his day. Written between the ages of seventeen and twenty-two, they are, properly speaking, his juvenilia, and are not to be judged by the standards of his mature work. All the seeds of the later work, however, were planted in this early work, and it is instructive and entertaining to observe Firbank as he tends his literary garden.
Ranging from impressionistic prose poems and allegories to sardonic vignettes of high-society life, they all display Firbank's satiric eye and stylistic flair. Only a few of the stories were published commercially; most have been available only in expensive, limited editions, and four stories are published here for the first time from Firbank's manuscripts. Included in a appendix are two other pieces Firbank wrote at the same age―the poem "The Wind & the Roses" and his only venture into art criticism, "An Early Flemish Painter"―and detailed textual notes that give the publishing history for all the works.

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Review:

"Firbank should be honored as a great master of 20th-century literature, one whose books taught narrative economy, lightness of touch and speed to a generation of writers, among them Evelyn Waugh, Henry Green and Anthony Powell. As an innovator and stylistic influence he stands to later English fiction precisely as early Hemingway does to American. . . . Firbank remains unremittingly, gloriously campy. This is a given, like Beckett's gloom and Borges's scholasticism, and a real reader wouldn't have him any other way. . . . [Firbank's stories] can be read again and again with ever-deepening pleasure. In the right mood they are very nearly the most amusing novels in the world." -- Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World 12-16-90

"Firbank's early works . . . herald the completed novels of easily the most precious English stylist to find a publisher this century. . . . [F]lawless marvels of delicate pastoral satire." -- Kirkus Reviews 8-1-90

"Only now is Ronald Firbank beginning to receive credit for being among the most brilliant parodists of the British upper class and the developer of a highly original and influential modernist literary style. . . . Reading and rereading Firbank has always been profitable for me. There is always something new to be discovered in the work of this subtle, deceptively thoughtful writer." -- Harvey Pekar, San Diego Tribune 9-7-90

"This collection of youthful pieces . . . presents us with diverse components of what would become a masterpiece of orchestration: the style Firbank was to realize in his foreshortened maturity. . . . Tapping his own hidden vein of occult discipline, Firbank brought forth a style both loose-jointed and sure-footed, a mischievous, tender, stately melding and meshing of tones that offers a glass for viewing the Edwardian world as a Fairground of Folly. . . . This valuable and well-edited book is a restorative for lovers of Firbank and an eye-opener for both old and new acquaintances. If only the right, responsive eyes are guided back to his work, the first step in an important reassemblage may be underway." -- Donald Phelps, Chicago Tribune 9-17-90

From Publishers Weekly:

These entertaining vignettes, written between 1903 to 1908, are mosaics of fantasy, comedy and poetry that provide clues to Firbank's (1886-1926) literary development, his influence on Waugh and Huxley, and the continuation of literary decadence and aestheticism into the 20th century. While the juvenilia collected here (including four previously unpublished stories) may be as derivative as Firbank's later novels are original, it is none the worse for its imitation of earlier European models. His sardonic depictions of English aristocrats suffering from ennui and moral decay take their epigrammatic wit and artificiality from Wilde, while his colors, scenery and costumes seem plucked from pre-Raphaelite paintings. His prose poems recall the lush impressionism of the French symbolists, his fairytales the mysticism of Maeterlinck. Despite his fanciful subjects (widows manipulating peers into marriage, a bored wife who destroys buildings through witchcraft, a dying nun carried to heaven by the Holy Virgin), it is not Firbank's plots that fascinate but rather his art pour l'art rendering of a world peopled by beautiful grotesques.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Firbank, Ronald
Editore: Dalkey Archive Press (1990)
ISBN 10: 0916583600 ISBN 13: 9780916583606
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Ronald Firbank, Steven Moore
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Ronald Firbank
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Ronald Firbank
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