When I took over this newsletter, I made an editorial calendar of various “awareness” weeks, days, and months to draw upon when I was out of ideas. I’ve barely consulted it since, but ADHD Awareness Month is close to my heart—I was diagnosed with the “inattentive” type of the disorder more than twenty years ago, but not soon enough to get through college in fewer than five years and three schools. When you’re wondering why you got this newsletter on a Thursday instead of its usual Wednesday, or why it was sent at 11:30 p.m., there’s your answer. Now you’re aware! Let’s celebrate.
Books on ADHD aren’t really Uncharted’s deal, but you know what is? Short stories. The kind you can read in one sitting—and should, according to the King of Spooky Season, Edgar Allan Poe. “If any literary work is too long to be read in one sitting, we must be content to dispense with the immensely important effect derivable from unity of impression,” he wrote in “The Philosophy of Composition.” A short story, unlike a novel (unless you have the leisure to read it all at once, which I do recommend and encourage), allows you to take in the author’s vision as a whole, uninterrupted by the real world’s demands on your precious attention.
Contemporary Story Collections
If you’ve walked through our fiction section lately, you might have noticed a shelf dedicated to short story collections. It’s curated by our manager, Francis, for sheer love of the underappreciated genre.
It wasn’t always that way. Reading Ruth Franklin’s biography of Shirley Jackson recently, I whimpered a bit at the news that Jackson’s stories made her the household’s primary breadwinner. In 1949, she got a Good Housekeeping contract that paid her $6000 for eight stories a year—close to $69,000 in 2021 dollars, according to the first inflation calculator that came up on Google. Later, Readers’ Digest offered $35,000—more than $300,000 today—for a condensed version of her short gothic novel The Haunting of Hill House. Contrast that with the numbers at stake in yesterday’s buzziest NYT story, “Who Is the Bad Art Friend?” An unusually successful contemporary short story at the center of a contentious legal battle has earned its author a grand total of… $425.
We at Uncharted take personal offense at the weak market for short stories, and we implore you to help us restore its vitality. Francis’s shelf usually features new and used books by contemporary authors like Sofia Samatar, Helen Oyeyemi, Kelly Link, Maile Meloy, Brandon Taylor, and more. Our rare books section, meanwhile, is full of short story collections dating back to the days when publishers paid real money for them.
Rare Story Collections
There’s this first edition of Grace Paley’s second collection, in very good condition for only $25. You know who’s a better short story writer than Grace Paley? Absolutely no one, that’s who.
Check out this 2004 Guardian profile. Ali Smith: “Her stories are specially compacted, primed to resonate, disconcert, and then force you, in a way that's somehow both gentle and extraordinarily tough, to be intelligent. They don't haunt; they preoccupy.” A.S. Byatt: “She is one of a kind. The only writer I ever compare her with is Alice Munro… I do not think I have ever laughed so much over the joy of the inconsequential as I do listening to Grace in her writing.”
I mean. I may have just talked myself into buying this one. Go get it now, and save me from myself.
We also have a perfect-for-October, limited edition, two-volume Selected Writings of E.T.A. Hoffmann (an 18th/19th-century gothic horror author best known for The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, on which the ballet is based), published in 1969, for $50.
Then there’s Sixty Stories, by Donald Barthelme, first edition, good condition, $20. That’s three funny, weird, po-mo, masterful stories for a dollar! Can you afford not to? (We have some other Barthelme for as low as $10, too.)
T.C. Boyle is one of a long list of authors we carry a ton of used, because they are 1) prolific and 2) the writers everyone was talking about 15-30 years ago. You’ll get a whole newsletter on that one of these days, but in the meantime, you can come check out our wide selection of his novels and stories in person, OR you can buy this signed! first edition! in fine! condition (with a fine! dust jacket) for a mere $45.
Another forthcoming newsletter will go over what all these terms like “fine” and near-fine” and “very good” and “fair” actually mean, in terms of the rare and antiquarian book market. I’m still learning myself, but I feel like if you’ve ever thought about book collecting, this could make a great starter. It’s not going to be worth a ton of money any time soon—Boyle’s alive, the book’s not that old, and his print runs in the ‘90s were big enough that it’s not yet hard to come by first editions. But a signed copy in beautiful condition by a noteworthy writer is exactly the kind of thing that eventually becomes precious. In the meantime, it’s a cool thing to have on your shelf, which should really be the point of collecting.
Sheik M. Sadeek’s Windswept and Other Stories, on the other hand, is actually rare as hell. I’m just going to quote Tanner’s description here:
1969. Pamphlet. This is a self-published collection of short stories from Guyanese author and playwright Sadeek. Acclaimed in his own country, very few English translations of his work are available. At the time of listing, we were able to find no other listings of this book online in any format, much less the self-published chapbook.
Speaking of what a beautiful copy looks like, check out this first edition of Real Losses, Imaginary Gains, by Wright Morris, noted author of the Great Plains and friend to John O’Hara, Thornton Wilder, and Muriel Spark. That’s a 45-year-old book in better shape than a lot of brand-new ones. It’s also available for less than a new hardcover, at $20.
For those who want to level up a bit as a collector, I am in love with this 1959 signed first edition of Hostiles and Friendlies, by Mari Sandoz. Another Plains author, Sandoz wrote books about the rise of fascism, Oglala leader Crazy Horse and, at his request, her abusive asshole of a father. (Old Jules, her father’s story, was rejected by multiple publishers before a revised version won an Atlantic nonfiction prize in 1935. So there’s a reminder for aspiring writers that one editor’s opinion is just that.)
Anyway, this short story collection is in fine condition, with a very good dust jacket. It’s signed, and come on, look at this cover! The title! The type! The horses! I love it so much. $100.
Finally, the more serious collector might be interested in this 1932 first edition of Faulkner’s poetry and short prose, Salmagundi, which also features a poem by Ernest Hemingway. Includes a hilarious note from the publisher (Casanova) describing its rarity and origins: “Completed after many trials and tribulations,” in a print run of 500 copies for the general public and 25 “reserved for ungrateful critics and its two authors,” it was designed by “Paul Romaine, who is obviously very unlike Aldus or Bodoni, but who is very young and has many years to correct the glaring defects herein of composition.” It’s yours for $700.
As always, coming into the store is the best way to find what you didn’t know you were looking for. Ask us for short story recommendations, and watch our faces light up!
Until next time,
The only newsletter where I might stumble over the fact that A.S. Byatt and I have the same top two!