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My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories, from Chekhov to Munro

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"When it comes to love, there are a million theories to explain it. But when it comes to love stories, things are simpler. A love story can never be about full possession. Love stories depend on disappointment, on unequal births and feuding families, on matrimonial boredom and at least one cold heart. Love stories, nearly without exception, give love a bad name.... It is p "When it comes to love, there are a million theories to explain it. But when it comes to love stories, things are simpler. A love story can never be about full possession. Love stories depend on disappointment, on unequal births and feuding families, on matrimonial boredom and at least one cold heart. Love stories, nearly without exception, give love a bad name.... It is perhaps only in reading a love story (or in writing one) that we can simultaneously partake of the ecstasy and agony of being in love without paying a crippling emotional price. I offer this book, then, as a cure for lovesickness and an antidote to adultery. Read these love stories in the safety of your single bed. Let everybody else suffer." --Jeffrey Eugenides, from the introduction to My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead All proceeds from My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead will go directly to fund the free youth writing programs offered by 826 Chicago. 826 Chicago is part of the network of seven writing centers across the United States affiliated with 826 National, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.


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"When it comes to love, there are a million theories to explain it. But when it comes to love stories, things are simpler. A love story can never be about full possession. Love stories depend on disappointment, on unequal births and feuding families, on matrimonial boredom and at least one cold heart. Love stories, nearly without exception, give love a bad name.... It is p "When it comes to love, there are a million theories to explain it. But when it comes to love stories, things are simpler. A love story can never be about full possession. Love stories depend on disappointment, on unequal births and feuding families, on matrimonial boredom and at least one cold heart. Love stories, nearly without exception, give love a bad name.... It is perhaps only in reading a love story (or in writing one) that we can simultaneously partake of the ecstasy and agony of being in love without paying a crippling emotional price. I offer this book, then, as a cure for lovesickness and an antidote to adultery. Read these love stories in the safety of your single bed. Let everybody else suffer." --Jeffrey Eugenides, from the introduction to My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead All proceeds from My Mistress's Sparrow Is Dead will go directly to fund the free youth writing programs offered by 826 Chicago. 826 Chicago is part of the network of seven writing centers across the United States affiliated with 826 National, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.

30 review for My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories, from Chekhov to Munro

  1. 5 out of 5

    Selena

    i have a hard time rating this book as a whole. some of the stories made me cry. others made me want to skip to the next one. some i had already encountered in another life. i couldn't stop reading this book. i couldn't stop re-reading the stories. reading them aloud to my boyfriend. watching the look on his face to see if they resonated as strongly with him. it was beautiful. and it was heart-breaking. and it hurt. i felt so dreadful after reading some of them, like it was me this was happening i have a hard time rating this book as a whole. some of the stories made me cry. others made me want to skip to the next one. some i had already encountered in another life. i couldn't stop reading this book. i couldn't stop re-reading the stories. reading them aloud to my boyfriend. watching the look on his face to see if they resonated as strongly with him. it was beautiful. and it was heart-breaking. and it hurt. i felt so dreadful after reading some of them, like it was me this was happening to. these stories held my attention in some odd way. i will never forget some of them. the hitchhiking game. spring in fialta. spring in fialta fixes everything. i'm going to re-read this soon.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    A love story can never be about full possession. The happy marriage, the requited love, the desire that never dims – these are lucky eventualities but they aren't love stories. Love stories depend on disappointment, on unequal births and feuding families, on matrimonial boredom and at least one cold heart. Love stories, nearly without exception, give love a bad name. In his Introduction, Jeffrey Eugenides provides the above definition for what he was looking for when he set out to collect his A love story can never be about full possession. The happy marriage, the requited love, the desire that never dims – these are lucky eventualities but they aren't love stories. Love stories depend on disappointment, on unequal births and feuding families, on matrimonial boredom and at least one cold heart. Love stories, nearly without exception, give love a bad name. In his Introduction, Jeffrey Eugenides provides the above definition for what he was looking for when he set out to collect his favourite love stories of the preceding 120 years. As a result, this anthology contains tales at once more bleak and more revelatory than one would expect to find in the Romance section of the local bookshop, and that was apparently Eugenides' goal: these are not romances, not happily-ever-after fairytales, not likely to make one gasp with empathetic tears. As the great preponderance of the twenty-seven stories were written by white men – as was the ancient Latin poem from which Eugenides took the anthology's title – My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead offers a narrow slice of the experience of love (presumably that with which Eugenides himself could identify); yet as this narrow slice is likely underrepresented in the Romance section of the local bookshop, it's as valid a focus as any for a collection of short stories. As with any anthology, I had an uneven reading experience – some stories I loved, others bored me; some authors were excitingly new to me, others were cosily familiar – and I was happy to slog through the dross to find the gold. By focussing on the experiences of the white male, predictable themes emerge: the desperation of the unconsummated teenage relationship; the businesslike approach to choosing a suitable wife; the emotional trap of extramarital affairs. I was surprised, however, how many stories revealed the violence that male characters are suppressing as they attempt to possess and control their women. James Joyce springs it on us in The Dead, as does Milan Kundera in his outstanding The Hitchhiking Game. In The Bad Thing by David Gates, when a pregnant woman gets drunk, and as a result her husband calls her a whore before threatening to strike her, she is at first confused: I wasn't angry. Or frightened, really, even though I cringed to appease him. He would never be a hitter. That fist he was raising at me would wham into the cupboard door, only hurting himself. I saw it all happening, then it really did happen. But I didn't understand the whore thing. Why was he confusing the drinking with the other? Then I got it. Obvious. It was all mixed up for him, all the same thing: the drinking, the other, anything that could make a woman free. I was immediately struck by the inventiveness of the writing in Innocence by Harold Brodkey. Describing the inherent inequality displayed by one young woman's beauty, he writes, “To see her in sunlight was to see Marxism die.” (Loved that line.) After four years of college, the narrator is finally able to bed the beautiful Orra (Wiley is self-aware that he is conquest-driven), and when he discovers that she's never had an orgasm, protests that she isn't interested in having one, he still makes it his mission to bring her there. And again, this is about control. Although Orra continues to protest, twenty of the thirty-six pages of this short story involve the details of one later lovemaking session, and although I might have balked at the ambiguity of her frequent protests – Is a woman still in control if her lover knowingly makes her lose control? What does this mean in a “No means no” world? – Wiley is constantly evaluating Orra's responses and considering the effects of stopping or continuing at every point. So, despite him patronisingly acting like only he knows what's best for Orra, I was forced to accept this as a considered male perspective and not be offended on her behalf. And then the writing as Wiley watches her growing and unfurling wings: It was as if something unbelievably strange and fierce – like the holy temper – lifted her to where she could not breathe or walk: she choked in the ether, a scrambling seraph, tumbling and aflame and alien, powerful beyond belief, hideous and frightening and beautiful beyond the reach of the human. A screaming child, an angel howling in the Godly sphere: she churned without delicacy, as wild as an angel bearing threats; her body lifted from the sheets, fell back, lifted again; her hands beat on the bed; she made very loud hoarse tearing noises – I was frightened for her: this was her first time after six years of playing around with her body. It hurt her; her face looked like something made of stone, a monstrous carving; only her body was alive; her arms and legs were outspread and tensed and they beat or they were weak and fluttering. She was an angel as brilliant as a beautiful insect infinitely enlarged and irrevocably foreign: she was unlike me: she was a girl making rattling, astonished, uncontrolled, unhappy noises, a girl looking shocked and intent and harassed by the variety and viciousness of the sensations, including relief, that attacked her. In the end, I couldn't think of that as violence, and as I flipped back to see who the author was, that's when I realised that Eugenides had started the collection with another of Brodkey's stories, First Love and Other Sorrows, and then I had even more respect for the author: in this story about a teenage boy being raised in a family with a single mother and an older sister, Brodkey totally captured a credible feminine atmosphere of love and longing. (And when I later read that the Orra character features in several of Brodkey's stories, and that she's based on his first wife, the lovemaking seemed like more of a partnership than a subjugation in retrospect.) I loved the frequent ironic asides that the narrator makes to the reader in Gilbert Sorrentino's The Moon in Its Flight, and thought this a fitting conclusion after the protagonist sees his first love again after a decade apart: You are perfectly justified in scoffing at the outrageous transparency of it if I tell you that his wife said that he was so pale that he looked as if he had seen a ghost, but that is, indeed, what she said. Art cannot rescue anybody from anything. And I found Lorrie Moore to be frequently, heart-breakingly, funny in How to Be an Other Woman: When you were young you thought mistress meant to put your shoes on the wrong feet. Now you are older and know it can mean many things, but it essentially means to put your shoes on the wrong feet. I was blown away by the gritty realism in Dirty Wedding by Denis Johnson, Something That Needs Nothing by Miranda July, and Fireworks by Richard Ford; I had never before read Johnson or July and enjoyed their styles so much that I have already ordered books by them both (as well as a memoir of Harold Brodkey's dying days). Jon by George Saunders was as futuristic-weird as any of his other stories I've read, and there are, naturally, stories in this anthology that I have read and enjoyed before: Alice Munro's The Bear Came Over the Mountain, Chechov's The Lady With the Little Dog, Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love . And yet, although new to me and seemingly universally praised, neither Faulkner's A Rose for Emily nor Nabokov's Spring in Fialta really touched me. Like I said, anthologies are usually uneven reading experiences; I'm pretty sure each of us would have a different list of the love stories that we admire. And a note: despite my rambling, I haven't referenced all the stories in this collection; but uncited doesn't necessarily mean unenjoyed. Even the stories that did bore me gave me something to think about, so this was never a waste of time. And insofar as I discovered some new voices, it was time well spent.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Books Ring Mah Bell

    Let's revisit the definition of love story, shall we? While I have to admit most of these are excellent stories, I'm not sure I'd peg them as "love" stories. Maybe my idea of love is just completely different than the authors of these short stories. In all, this book deserves 5 stars, as most of the writing in here was truly amazing. (and this is high praise coming from a girl who is not big into short stories) I had to knock it down a few stars as the stories simply did not conform to what I want Let's revisit the definition of love story, shall we? While I have to admit most of these are excellent stories, I'm not sure I'd peg them as "love" stories. Maybe my idea of love is just completely different than the authors of these short stories. In all, this book deserves 5 stars, as most of the writing in here was truly amazing. (and this is high praise coming from a girl who is not big into short stories) I had to knock it down a few stars as the stories simply did not conform to what I wanted in a love story. (damn, I'm so selfish and demanding!) (edited in response to Jessica's question) What do I expect in a love story? Good and fair question, Treat. I want: 1. Love that spans time. you know, boy meets girl, they may have a brief separation from one another, but as time goes by they never forget one another - they reconnect and sparks fly and they grow old together (happily) and die. Or they meet late in life and grow old together and die. This may be why The Notebook is one of my favorite stories ever. (SHUT UP, haters!) 2. dedication. devotion... but not if one is being used and abused. I don't have the words I guess to explain what hits me in a love story. The whole growing old thing pulls at my heartstrings in a serious way. For example, I hated the movie Titanic. The one part that had me choked up was when the ship was filling up with water... this old couple laid down together on the bed and held hands as the water rose around them. One of my favorite stories in Mythology is the story of Philemon and Baucis. Some of the stories in this collection were difficult for me to accept as "love stories". In one, a young couple plays a game where he picks his sweet girlfriend up and she pretends she's a hitchhiker and it gets out of control. In another, a less than affectionate lesbian couple breaks up and one goes to work at a Peep show place.. In yet another, a man goes to a marriage broker to find a wife. He rejects the old 35 year old hag. He wants 'em young! (who doesn't!) and then he sees a picture of "the one". Because a photo will convey if we will be compatible partners in life! Bull-POOP. And in another story, a guy finds the most beautiful woman, longs for her. They connect and she refuses (is unable) to have an orgasm. He spends the next 30 pages trying to make her have one. Gotta give him points for determination! So, what I want in a story and what I got were two very different things. I don't mean to take away from the stories themselves, as I said, they were very well done.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Katia N

    Nowadays, any story about love is threaten to be a story about gender politics. It’s nothing wrong with that, but sometimes, you just do not want politics, fight and feathers, you want a miracle which is love… This story collection gives you just that. It contains more than two dozen love stories ranging widely from Nabokov to Miranda July and from Faulkner to Alice Monroe. The stories were selected by Geoffrey Eugenides. The collection is introduced by his essay on the nature of a love story an Nowadays, any story about love is threaten to be a story about gender politics. It’s nothing wrong with that, but sometimes, you just do not want politics, fight and feathers, you want a miracle which is love… This story collection gives you just that. It contains more than two dozen love stories ranging widely from Nabokov to Miranda July and from Faulkner to Alice Monroe. The stories were selected by Geoffrey Eugenides. The collection is introduced by his essay on the nature of a love story and his choices. “It is perhaps only in reading a love story (or in writing one) that we can simultaneously partake of the ecstasy and agony of being in love without paying a crippling emotional price.” - he says in the essay. And this collection totally brought alive this experience for me. I liked the serendipity of the choices. Normally, if you read a collection by a single author you are getting used to the flow, its themes and the language. It is not the case here: you’ve thrown from Nabokov’s music to the abruptness of Faulkner; from the modern America to Russia in the 19th century, etc. Nothing in common in these stories, well nothing apart from love… If you do not like Eugenides as a novelist, you might not enjoy his choices. But I certainly did (with maybe 2 exceptions which i would not dwell here). This collection has returned me back to the state, long forgotten, when all my feelings were like strings and I coexisted with the myriad of people in this book. It reminded me that still there is fiction worth reading not only for intellectual, but for emotional impact, even if you are not 20 any more… One Russian writer said: “The love analysed theoretically becomes business and sport.” So I tried to keep it brief, but below a few thoughts on my best discoveries in the collection. The Hitchhiking game by Milan Kundera Normally, at the beginning of the relationship we try to idealise our romantic interest, subconsciously create a fiction to live in, at least for a bit. At some point the reality strikes of course.. That was the subject of Cat Person the recently published story in the New Yorker which created a lot of buzz and discussions on the internet. I did not find that story particularly good or profound. But i remembered it while reading The Hitchhiking game because Kundera has done something totally opposite - something scary and unpredictable. He has started with the relationship in perfect harmony, grounded in the real life, and he turned it upside down. The girl in the story for a second imagined herself as a totally different personality just for a sake of a verbal game. And the game took over: “Fiction was suddenly making an assault on real life”. And the result is honest and shaking and brutal, but very realistic as well… I do not like all of Kundera, but this story is a powerful one. Tonka by Robert Musil I rediscovered Musil all again with this story. Musil is known for his giant unfinished novel “A man without qualities”, which I’ve read. It was brimming with ideas and highly intellectual, But for me, it missed a bit of feeling. Everything and everyone seemed to be totally detached. This is not the case in this story. I understood that it is autobiographic and it is about his love with the ordinary peasant woman. Here he manages to combine his analytic gift with deep and heartbreaking emotions, paradoxes of understanding and the lack of it.. It reminded me how little verbal communication means in love. His character thinks of a language as a gift and for articulated people “the ability to talk was not a medium of thought, but a sort of capital, something they wore like jewellery to impress others.”. However he looks at “inarticulate Tonka, who could neither talk nor weep.” and feels something which even he cannot express: “But how is one to define something that neither can speak nor is spoken of, something that dumbly merges with anonymous mass of mankind, something that is like a little line scratched on the tablets of history? What is one to make of such life, such being which is like a snowflake falling, all alone in the midst of a summer day? Is it real or imaginary? Is it good or indifferent? One senses the fact that here the categories have reached a frontier beyond which they cease to be valid.” We didn’t by Stuart Dybek I never heard of Dybek before i’ve read this story and what a fantastic discovery! His writing is a poetry in prose. His words and sentences makes me feel this weird mixture of longing and melancholy: “But we didn’t, not in the moonlight, or by the phosphorescent lanterns of lightning bugs in your back yard, not beneath the constellations we couldn’t see, let alone decipher, or in the dark glow that replaced the real darkness of night, a darkness already stolen from us, not with the skyline rising behind us while a city gradually decayed, not in the heat of summer while a Cold War raged, despite the freedom of youth and the license of first love—because of fate, karma, luck, what does it matter?—we made not doing it a wonder, and yet we didn’t, we didn’t, we never did.”  "It was the first time I'd ever had the feeling of missing someone I was still with." Natasha by David Bezmozgis The story is centred around the girl, immigrant version of Lolita, appearing and shaking the life of an adolescent boy and his family. Again, it is a total discovery for me. His voice is very original, prose - economic and unsentimental, humour is dark. And of course, The Dead by James Joyce - It is not included into the European edition of this collection, but it is in the American one. I have a separate review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Banafsheh Serov

    The moment I love best about any book, is the moment I start the first sentence. That sense of anticipation when starting something new. It's the moment when I open myself to a whole new discovery of characters, plot and settings. It's also an intimate conversation with the author, a small personal confession perhaps or an admission of values whispered through dialogue between characters. I don't tend to read anthologies of short stories. I only bought 'My mistress's sparrow is dead' because I ac The moment I love best about any book, is the moment I start the first sentence. That sense of anticipation when starting something new. It's the moment when I open myself to a whole new discovery of characters, plot and settings. It's also an intimate conversation with the author, a small personal confession perhaps or an admission of values whispered through dialogue between characters. I don't tend to read anthologies of short stories. I only bought 'My mistress's sparrow is dead' because I accidently spilled coffee over it and felt compelled to purchase it. But what a great find it turned out to be! In this anthology of love stories, Eugenides has brought together an eclectic collection of both well known as well as some lesser known authors. I cannot think why I had not gravitated towards anthologies before. They are like a beautiful jewelry box that presents you with a new treasure every time you open it. Each story repeated for me the trill of a new begining, a cast of new characters and a whole new backdrop waiting to be discovered. It was like a ten course meal, presented with humility and muted fanfare. Although I enjoyed most of the stories, some did bore me which is another thing I found wonderful about such anthologies. If the story failed to grab me in the first couple of paragraphs, I just skipped to the next one and started the journey of discovery all over again. The only disadvantage I can think of with such anthologies is, how can one review a book with 27 stories, each written by a different author? Although Anton Chekhov's story was by far my favourite in both prose and plot, I did enjoy most of the others in the collection as well. My mistress's sparrow is dead, is a great collection to keep by your bedside and open at anytime and at any story. Most are short enough to be finished in around 30 minutes, so you can pick it up in between books or when you are looking for something to read over a cup of coffee. And if the story does not match your mood, then you can let your fingers and eyes roam like a pair of talismen, till they lead you to one that does.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Jo

    It's ridiculously difficult for me to rate this book because there is such a vast difference between the stories that I relished and the ones that I had to trudge through. I adore Eugenides as an author, but his editing skills in regards to a collection of "great" love stories leaves something to be desired. There are certainly stories that, to me, expressed the epitome of love, such as Munro's "The Bear Came Over the Mountain," in which a husband begins to lose his wife of several decades to bo It's ridiculously difficult for me to rate this book because there is such a vast difference between the stories that I relished and the ones that I had to trudge through. I adore Eugenides as an author, but his editing skills in regards to a collection of "great" love stories leaves something to be desired. There are certainly stories that, to me, expressed the epitome of love, such as Munro's "The Bear Came Over the Mountain," in which a husband begins to lose his wife of several decades to both dementia and another man. There are a few stories that are wonderfully innovative. "Jon," written by George Saunders, takes place in an alternate reality filled with virtually imprisoned adolescents who exist only as permanent focus groups for constant advertisements. Oh, there's a brave and bizarre romance in there, trust me. But then there are such entries as Robert Musil's "Tonka" which primarily features a tediously shallow and self-centered inner monologue that seems to drag on indefinitely. There are a few other stories too bland for me to even remember, let alone mention. I expected too much, I suppose, but the few gems that are between these covers made the overall roller coaster quality of the read worth it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    I loved the variety of stories in this collection--and was happy to be introduced to some "classic" contemporary writers whose work I'd never actually read before. Okay, I'll admit it. I hadn't read Harold Brodsky before, and for my money, "First Love and Other Sorrows" was worth the whole book. (However, I didn't like the other Brodsky story in the book.) The glacial movement through time and emotion in that story was deceptive; next thing you know, time has passed and all has changed. I also lov I loved the variety of stories in this collection--and was happy to be introduced to some "classic" contemporary writers whose work I'd never actually read before. Okay, I'll admit it. I hadn't read Harold Brodsky before, and for my money, "First Love and Other Sorrows" was worth the whole book. (However, I didn't like the other Brodsky story in the book.) The glacial movement through time and emotion in that story was deceptive; next thing you know, time has passed and all has changed. I also lovedthe Eisenberg story in the collection, about a middle-aged gay couple named William and Otto, and Otto's relationship with his family and his schizophrenic sister--and William and Otto's friendship with the lesbian couple who rent from them and who adopt a baby. She did a great job getting into Otto's mind, his goodness and his failures. Complicated but with a light touch. Funny and moving.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Yulia

    Hmm, this is supposedly a great anthology, but is it safe to trust the tastes of an author I don't care for? I'll have to find out. Perhaps he's a better reader than he is a writer, which is too often the case. It would seem not. Two stars for two happy introductions to writers I hadn't considered before: Miranda July ("Something That Needs Nothing") and David Bezmozgis ("Natasha"). As for the rest: Erg, the obviousness of some of these choices irritates me (Joyce's "The Dead," Chekhov's "Lady wi Hmm, this is supposedly a great anthology, but is it safe to trust the tastes of an author I don't care for? I'll have to find out. Perhaps he's a better reader than he is a writer, which is too often the case. It would seem not. Two stars for two happy introductions to writers I hadn't considered before: Miranda July ("Something That Needs Nothing") and David Bezmozgis ("Natasha"). As for the rest: Erg, the obviousness of some of these choices irritates me (Joyce's "The Dead," Chekhov's "Lady with the Little Dog/Lapdog"): is this an anthology for a literature course? It certainly isn't meant to open our eyes to new discoveries. other choices by famous authors I'd never read before surprised me by their ignorance of their message, how what they intended to convey fell so far from what they actually expressed (Brodkey's first story, Maupassant's "Mouche"). Eeks, Denis Johnson is an awful writer. His story, "Dirty Wedding," had tinges of James Frey, John Banville (I say this not as a compliment, but in reference to Banville's being disingenuously coy about not knowing exact ages or locations or types of writing utensils--"What tree was that? A pine?"), and a third whom I can't mention but whom I consider the worst writer I know. Suffice it to say, I'll never read any work by Johnson ever in my life. Wow, that was a nonsensical, pointless, and embarrassingly scrap thing to publish. Give it to the rats! Amazingly, Frank had read it to me a few nights ago, but we were both on sleeping pills, so we didn't remember reading it and, when some lines seemed familiar, we assumed we hadn't finished it out of fatigue, and when we got to the end and realized we'd read the awful thing *twice*, you can only imagine our horror at not having been more memorably mortified the first time we read it. (spoiler warning) I'll also have to disagree with Chekhov about the ending of "Lady with the Little Dog, or as I knew it as a kid, "Lady with the Lap Dog." The ending's tone is completely out of place in the story. Chekhov's friend wanted a more concrete ending, but I found it much too optimistic an end in a story that suggested no optimism at all and no real love between the two characters. End the story two paragraphs early, when the man tells her to stop her tears, we'll talk it out, and the story's great, if not quite a love story. But to lop on a falsely hopeful ending wasn't fair to the reader or the characters. On the positive side, Kundera's 'Hitchiking Game" I've always loved and can't begrudge its place here, but then I don't go to anthologies to have all my favorites together. I go to discover new treasures, which I've yet to find. but I'll read more and see if some do surprise me with their voice, humanity, and insight. Maybe I'll even change my opinion of Deborah Eisenberg's writing. . . . But it's inherently flawed, to have such a pretentious introduction, to try to convince others that such a mediocre Catullus poem could have inspired a career, to suggest that the obscurity of Chekhov's last line makes it great, to remark that Dave Eggers is the Bono of literature. What to say? My opinion of Eugeneides has only degraded with this. I don't think him profound for choosing these works. I think instead of stories that more obviously belonged in an anthology of love: Lynn Freed's "The Curse of the Appropriate Man" Haruki Murakami's "The Window" Robert Stone's "Bear and His Daughter" Etgar Keret's "My Man" Thomas Mann's "Death in Venice" (a bit long admittedly) Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain" Salinger's "For Esme - with Love and Squalor" Obvious choices to other readers perhaps, but at least these I can stomach. I'll add in Kundera's story because I do love it. I'll title my own anthology after another, but better, Catullus poem, "Odi et amo," I hate and I love. But no, I won't call anyone the Bono of literature or say Catullus inspired me to write.

  9. 4 out of 5

    miaaa

    Love stories, nearly without exception, give love a bad name. - Jeffrey Eugenides My late grandmother was quite ill the last time I met her. She confused me with her stories as she mixed up my late grandfather with one of my uncle. I did not have a chance to know either of my grandfathers as they died when I was few months old. So the only way to know them was through my grandmother's stories about my grandfather or my father's about his father. I don't know if she had loved her husband, my grand Love stories, nearly without exception, give love a bad name. - Jeffrey Eugenides My late grandmother was quite ill the last time I met her. She confused me with her stories as she mixed up my late grandfather with one of my uncle. I did not have a chance to know either of my grandfathers as they died when I was few months old. So the only way to know them was through my grandmother's stories about my grandfather or my father's about his father. I don't know if she had loved her husband, my grandfather, because my mother once told me she's quite young when she married my grandfather who lost his first wife. Or maybe it was love because she raised his two sons from his first wife as if they're her own sons. During her few last years, she began to forget where she put her stuff, and as I said before, mixing people from the past with the present. I remember once I spent my school's holiday in my auntie's house and several cousins joined me. One morning, my grandmother had all of us jumped from whatever we're doing that time because she said she lost her money. So we're all busy looking for the money, we removed things and the house was a bit in chaos then. Suddenly one of my cousin asked, "Grandma how much did you lose?" and she indignantly said, "Three thousand rupiah!" And we're all burst out hysterical laughing. Now that she's gone I've always miss her. We still have a good laugh any time we talked about her, about how she had had eaten ice creams in the middle of the nights and had never let us touched any of her ice creams. She's still a beauty even in her old years. Such a grandmother who had always taking care of us -me and my siblings- and talked to us gently not to chop down her plants for our cooking games. And so I love her and it's for real. Reading this collections of love stories reminds me that there are dozens, hundreds, even millions kind of love. You have to believe that love matters as the more it can hurt you the more you realise that you're alive. *** Love stories, nearly without exception, give love a bad name. - Jeffrey Eugenides Beragam kisah cinta ada di sini, tidak selalu berakhir bahagia walau biasanya kebanyakan orang berharap demikian. Satu hal yang pasti kita membutuhkan cinta dan menyadari cinta itu penting. Terkadang cinta bisa begitu menyakitkan tapi bukankah dengan demikian kita juga sadar bahwa kita masih hidup? Bersulang untuk cinta ... cheers

  10. 4 out of 5

    Vishy

    Has some stellar names, some classic stories. Have mixed feelings about the collection, but liked it overall. My favourite stories from the collection were Anton Chekhov's 'The Lady with the Little Dog', Guy de Maupassant's 'Mouche' and Mary Robison's 'Yours'. Longer review soon. Has some stellar names, some classic stories. Have mixed feelings about the collection, but liked it overall. My favourite stories from the collection were Anton Chekhov's 'The Lady with the Little Dog', Guy de Maupassant's 'Mouche' and Mary Robison's 'Yours'. Longer review soon.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    Mixed bag. Some of the selections are just obvious classics everyone's read: "A Rose for Emily," "The Dead," "The Lady with the Little Dog," for example. Others are by hugely famous authors like Kundera and Nabokov, but not nearly as frequently anthologized (as far as I know). Those two stories, "The Hitch-Hiking Game" and "Spring in Fialta" respectively are probably the two best stories here excepting "The Dead," which is so perfect it's hard to believe. The more contemporary stuff I thought wa Mixed bag. Some of the selections are just obvious classics everyone's read: "A Rose for Emily," "The Dead," "The Lady with the Little Dog," for example. Others are by hugely famous authors like Kundera and Nabokov, but not nearly as frequently anthologized (as far as I know). Those two stories, "The Hitch-Hiking Game" and "Spring in Fialta" respectively are probably the two best stories here excepting "The Dead," which is so perfect it's hard to believe. The more contemporary stuff I thought was well-selected, if again a bit too... safe(?). Stuff like "Natasha" by David Bezmozgis is really fucking good. To a fault, it's good. It's so good it can come off as sterile. A bit more dangerous is Denis Johnson's fabulously ugly "Dirty Wedding." Of course, George Saunders' "Jon" is pretty much up there with the Nabokov and Kundera stories, although still not close to touching the Joyce story. Somewhere other than all the sorts of stuff I've mentioned is Gilbert Sorrentino's "The Moon in its Flight," which is excellent. I don't know what the fuck Harold Brodkey was up to, or why Eugenides likes him so much, but his story "Innocence" occasionally seems like it should be here, but mostly is almost intolerable. The biggest fault with this collection is that it's less a collection of great love stories, period, and more of a collection of love-and/or-sorta-kinda-pervy-sex-stories-suburbanite-white-guys-and-their-wives-might-relate-to-or-at-least-their-Jewish-neighbours-might. Which is okay. Hey, I think Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides is a fucking masterpiece, and that's all suburban white boy lust. But it's not exactly a really diverse collection.

  12. 5 out of 5

    MK

    How could this book not be good? I saw it in the bookstore and thought the design was so kick-ass- no book sleeve! We all hate those anyways. The design is ON the hard back. Good decision #1. #2- Jeffrey Eugenides edited it. I never finished Middlesex because I left it on a plane to Italy. But I was super enthralled during the first 80 pages. I also love the Virgin Suicides. Josh Hartnett, and Sophia Coppola. #3. The stories, so far, are incredible. And they're not all Dave Egger's-ish in approach How could this book not be good? I saw it in the bookstore and thought the design was so kick-ass- no book sleeve! We all hate those anyways. The design is ON the hard back. Good decision #1. #2- Jeffrey Eugenides edited it. I never finished Middlesex because I left it on a plane to Italy. But I was super enthralled during the first 80 pages. I also love the Virgin Suicides. Josh Hartnett, and Sophia Coppola. #3. The stories, so far, are incredible. And they're not all Dave Egger's-ish in approach. Like the cover says- Chekhov to Munro. I think I like Grace Paley's the most so far. But the one that's sticking real good in my mind is Natasha (it's sordid). Check it out.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Adair

    Jeffrey Eugenides, the editor of this collection of short stories begins by saying: “I offer this book as a cure for lovesickness and an antidote to adultery. Read these love stories not to confirm the brutal realities of love, but to experience its many variegated, compensatory pleasures.” He takes the title from the poetry of Catullus, who writes of his mistress’s pet sparrow as a rival for her attention. When the sparrow dies and fortune seems to be going his way, he is really no better off; h Jeffrey Eugenides, the editor of this collection of short stories begins by saying: “I offer this book as a cure for lovesickness and an antidote to adultery. Read these love stories not to confirm the brutal realities of love, but to experience its many variegated, compensatory pleasures.” He takes the title from the poetry of Catullus, who writes of his mistress’s pet sparrow as a rival for her attention. When the sparrow dies and fortune seems to be going his way, he is really no better off; her grief becomes the new rival. “There s a sparrow in every story,” Eugenides teases mysteriously. What he means is that in every one of these stories, the nature of love shifts and changes: whether it’s a man giving his lover her first orgasm, a casual affair becoming serious, a marriage turning violent, or a woman surrendering her identity for love and, in the process, losing her lover. Driven by passion, in pursuit of fulfilment, these characters are as often surprised as devastated by love. The finest short story writers are included: Chekhov, Nabokov, Babel, Faulkner, Kundera, Brodkey, Munro. Each approaches the theme of love uniquely, and yet the stories have something in common: their characters “seek a paradise that recedes endlessly before them”.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Magill

    Opinions on the quality of the writing aside, the apparent definition of love by the compiler and the authors tells me more about them than I wish to know. Apart from a fraction of the stories, the stories have nothing to do with love and more to do with infatuation (if the reader is lucky), lust, narcissism, unadulterated selfishness, and a complete lack of awareness of the other person in their "relationship". Immaturity as a characteristic is a relief in these essentially unrelenting depressi Opinions on the quality of the writing aside, the apparent definition of love by the compiler and the authors tells me more about them than I wish to know. Apart from a fraction of the stories, the stories have nothing to do with love and more to do with infatuation (if the reader is lucky), lust, narcissism, unadulterated selfishness, and a complete lack of awareness of the other person in their "relationship". Immaturity as a characteristic is a relief in these essentially unrelenting depressing stories. Perhaps I was expecting too much, no, OBVIOUSLY I was expecting too much. Throw the names of Chekhov and de Maupassant, etc. onto the cover and I thought to be served a somewhat richer and more complex fare, which they indeed managed, but most of the others simply failed to deliver. Finishing this book was NOT a labour of love. That aside, some of the stories stood up on their own merit "Some Other, Better Otto","Jon", "Fireworks", "The Bear came Over the Mountain". I will also point out that "Innocence" was a 34 page story, of which 20 was the mechanics of a single sex .... act, yawn.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Becky Stone

    I love this collection. Don't be mislead by the idea of "great love stories" - this is not a sugary book. These are painful, moving, messy stories about imperfect people. I highly recommend it. I love this collection. Don't be mislead by the idea of "great love stories" - this is not a sugary book. These are painful, moving, messy stories about imperfect people. I highly recommend it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Aniqahc

    I love short stories. And I love LOVE stories. So I bought this book prepared to be heartbroken and joyful and wallow in the genius of truly magnificent writing. After all the book promises these are the GREATEST love stories. Well I started reading. And eventually I slowed down. I wasn't looking forward to each story. I just wanted to finish the bloody book. Hardly any of the stories moved me. Did I have a heart of stone? I finally twigged what the problem was when I looked at the authors list at I love short stories. And I love LOVE stories. So I bought this book prepared to be heartbroken and joyful and wallow in the genius of truly magnificent writing. After all the book promises these are the GREATEST love stories. Well I started reading. And eventually I slowed down. I wasn't looking forward to each story. I just wanted to finish the bloody book. Hardly any of the stories moved me. Did I have a heart of stone? I finally twigged what the problem was when I looked at the authors list at the back of the book. 21 out of 27 of the authors are male. 6 are female 21 are American 26 are white So what you have is a book of love stories from the view point of mostly white American men collected by a white American man. I am appalled. How limited is the reading list of Jeffrey Eugenides? And who on earth thought it was a good idea to let him pick a short story collection? If you are a white male then you will probably love this book. If not and you are bored to tears by the white male dominated culture of fiction, journalism, tv and cinema then give this book a miss. It's not worth the effort or the snores.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Brian Solem

    This is, overall, a well-curated collection of love-related stories, or as Jeffrey Eugenides dubs it (to paraphrase), "stories about when the sparrow is alive, and stories about when the sparrow is dead." While most of the pieces address dead sparrows, I had to skip a few on account of general (as well as birthday) (oh, as well as pre-V-day) malaise. I'm glad I was reminded of authors like Raymond Carver, whose unsettling "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" addresses moribund domestic l This is, overall, a well-curated collection of love-related stories, or as Jeffrey Eugenides dubs it (to paraphrase), "stories about when the sparrow is alive, and stories about when the sparrow is dead." While most of the pieces address dead sparrows, I had to skip a few on account of general (as well as birthday) (oh, as well as pre-V-day) malaise. I'm glad I was reminded of authors like Raymond Carver, whose unsettling "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" addresses moribund domestic love, and introduced to authors like George Saunders, whose "Jon" (teenagers enslaved in a consumer marketing camp fall in love, but are forced to give up sentience for it) dragged its bow so expertly across my heartstrings. I'd say the book is worth the cost of admission based on Eugenides's introduction, its charitable angle (all proceeds are going to 826Chicago), and the possibility of meeting a new voice.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    What an unusual collection of "love" stories! A few were along the lines of what is expected upon hearing the term "love story", but many of the contributions defied tradition in some respect. I especially enjoyed the entries by Chekhov, Moore, Dybek, de Maupassant, and Saunders. I was never a big fan of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, but The Lady With the Little Dog piqued my interest in reading more of his short stories. Dybek's We Didn't, though frustrating for the narrator, is thoroughly enjo What an unusual collection of "love" stories! A few were along the lines of what is expected upon hearing the term "love story", but many of the contributions defied tradition in some respect. I especially enjoyed the entries by Chekhov, Moore, Dybek, de Maupassant, and Saunders. I was never a big fan of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, but The Lady With the Little Dog piqued my interest in reading more of his short stories. Dybek's We Didn't, though frustrating for the narrator, is thoroughly enjoyable from a reader's perspective, and Mouche was a refreshing change in tone from the rest of the stories.

  19. 5 out of 5

    reading is my hustle

    Better a sparrow, living or dead, than no birdsong at all. -Catullus Fabulous anthology of love stories with a considered intro by Jeffrey Eugenides. Caveat- not for the faint of heart or those looking for light and easy reading. Still, the range and scope of this collection makes it a standout + all proceeds go directly to fund the free youth writing programs offered by 826 Chicago. Better a sparrow, living or dead, than no birdsong at all. -Catullus Fabulous anthology of love stories with a considered intro by Jeffrey Eugenides. Caveat- not for the faint of heart or those looking for light and easy reading. Still, the range and scope of this collection makes it a standout + all proceeds go directly to fund the free youth writing programs offered by 826 Chicago.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    For the most part, anthologies blow. I only picked this one up because of the diversity of the authors. They put Faulkner, De Maupassant, and Chekhov on the same bill as Saunders, Munro, and Miranda July. Sounds like one of Dave Barry’s loony debacles to unite the literary world. And I’m not so far off. Eugenides in his introduction attributes his focus on love stories to “the Bono of Lit,” himself. But despite my petty contrivances, this is a damn good collection. There are some stories that I h For the most part, anthologies blow. I only picked this one up because of the diversity of the authors. They put Faulkner, De Maupassant, and Chekhov on the same bill as Saunders, Munro, and Miranda July. Sounds like one of Dave Barry’s loony debacles to unite the literary world. And I’m not so far off. Eugenides in his introduction attributes his focus on love stories to “the Bono of Lit,” himself. But despite my petty contrivances, this is a damn good collection. There are some stories that I have read before and forgotten, like “A Rose for Emily” and “The Necklace.” But isolating them, away from the author’s original anthologies gave a fresh approach. These are love stories. And he puts stories in new perspectives, like James Joyce’ “The Dead” and Denis Johnson’s “Dirty Wedding.” These are love stories too. This is a compilation of love stories, and you never even knew some of them were love stories! I was surprised by writers I never heard of, David Bezmozgis and Robert Musil; because in “Tonka” and “Natasha” there is a Eastern-European female fragility they handle so well. It takes the role of slut as the indigent ragdoll, like Lars raping “the real girl.” But it shows also the pathetic atrophy of the Western male’s role as aggressor when his pride and his romance and his social roles conflict. It’s the emotional stoicism of mail-order brides versus Ken dolls: Tonka lay there, with eyes shut and her face turned to the wall, for an endless age, in terrible lonely fear. When at last she felt him beside her, her eyes were wet with warm tears. Then came a new wave of fear, dismay at her ingratitude, a senseless word uttered as though in search of help, as though stumbling out some infinitely long, lonely corridor, to transform itself into his name—and then she was his. I like the cutesy introspective experiments in Miranda July’s work, like when a girl, throws herself down on the bed and asked us if we were girlfriends or what? An appalling emptiness filled the room. I stared out the window and repeated the word “window” in my head, I was ready to window window window indefinitely, but suddenly, Pip answered. Yeah. I also respect the choice of Miranda July’s story, as it is the only homosexual story in the book—and this as an effective tool to shape the question of Love is great. Though I think her story “Birthmark” or "How to Tell Stories to Children" are better love stories. But this adds the distinct flare, the gay one, to the collection. It shall pass. There’s also the inventive faux-authoritative approach of Lorrie Moore’s “How to be an Other Woman,” her how-to style has built in emotional invective, so to pull that off objectively, she just has to talk about action and reaction. It strangles the phrases. And I have to say that “The Hitchhiking Game” by Milan Kundera is probably the best short story I’ve ever read. It’s so taut with emotional friction and careful, unintimidating analysis that it makes you feel like a CSI detective exploring the crime scene as it happens. It’s terrifying and pulsating, not as throaty as Brodkey’s “Innocence” which is one of the most vibrant, and laymenly scientific sexual explorations I’ve ever gone through or Saunder’s “Jon,” a love-story so paralyzed by the eugenics of consumer polarization it makes Brave New World look like Walden; but it’s good, they’re all good. What this is, is good stories. Check it out. It won’t bite ya!

  21. 5 out of 5

    H.

    It's hard for me to give this book an overall rating. It is a bittersweet collection full of the certain ache that only love can stir. There were some familiar stories I had read before, but most were new to me and all were good, with one being especially great. These stories I had read before: Chekhov's "The Lady with the Little Dog," Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," Joyce's "The Dead," Nabokov's "Spring in Fialta," and Carver's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." All are great stories w It's hard for me to give this book an overall rating. It is a bittersweet collection full of the certain ache that only love can stir. There were some familiar stories I had read before, but most were new to me and all were good, with one being especially great. These stories I had read before: Chekhov's "The Lady with the Little Dog," Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," Joyce's "The Dead," Nabokov's "Spring in Fialta," and Carver's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." All are great stories with Checkhov's being one of my all time favorites. Though when I read it first the title was translated as "The Lady with the Lapdog," and it seems like that could be meaningful in at least one of the two very different ways you can take that story. A word or two about each of the remaining stories: Brodkey's "First Love and Other Sorrows": Superbly written and touching. Paley's "Love": Short. Meh. Johnson's "Dirty Wedding": He lives in a world of shit. Eisenberg's "Some Other, Better Otto": Anxious. Kundera's" "The Hitchhiking Game": Clever and true. Trevor's "Lovers of Their Time": Also true and sad because of it. de Maupassant's "Mouche": Sweet accommodating Mouche. How can you not love her? Fucked up, though. Sorrentino's "The Moon in its Flight": Very good. imaginative. Moore's "How To Be An Other Woman": 2nd person confessional. Robinson's "Yours": Short and sad. Gates's "The Bad Thing": Everybody lies. Meh. Babel's "First Love": Excellent and sad. Musil's "Tonka": Tonka is beautiful. Brutal story. Saunder's "Jon": Science fiction love via consermerism send-up. Chang's "Red Rose, White Rose": My second favorite of the new-to-me stories. Amazingly good. Ford's "Fireworks": My first Richard Ford experience and well worth it. Dybek's "We Didn't": Uneven. July's "Something That Needs Nothing": Great title, rough but very good story. Malamud's "Magic Barrel": Clever, well-told, and probably the story that made me laugh the most. Brodkey's "Innocence": Very smart writer but I liked his other story better and felt the anthology could have used a story from another writer more than a second from this one. Munro's "The Bear Came Over the Mountain": Beautiful sacrifice. And finally, my favorite, David Bezmozgis's "Natasha": This was the biggest surprise in the book and, in my opinion, just barely edges out Eileen Chang's "Red Rose, White Rose." I won't say a word about it other than to call it strong because it has to be experienced fresh. If you are browsing and read only one story in the anthology, read Chekhov's "The Lady with the Little Dog." If you've already read that classic, I recommend Bezmozgis's "Natasha." I'm glad I picked this up, but I'm off short stories for a bit, now. I need something with an extended narrative.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte

    I purchased this some time ago, and it's been waiting patiently on my bookshelves before being tossed into my suitcase as a last minute back-up holiday read. Upon starting it, I cursed myself for ignoring it for so long, because right from the opener (Harold Brodkey's "First Love and Other Sorrows") this collection is short-story writing at its best. As Jeffrey Eugenides explains in his introduction, he has not selected stories where the lovers are instantly fulfilled and live happily ever after I purchased this some time ago, and it's been waiting patiently on my bookshelves before being tossed into my suitcase as a last minute back-up holiday read. Upon starting it, I cursed myself for ignoring it for so long, because right from the opener (Harold Brodkey's "First Love and Other Sorrows") this collection is short-story writing at its best. As Jeffrey Eugenides explains in his introduction, he has not selected stories where the lovers are instantly fulfilled and live happily ever after. In his view, "the happy marriage, the requited love, the desire that never dims - these are lucky eventualities but they aren't love stories ... love stories, nearly without exception, give love a bad name." Here, then, we see love as suffering, love as missed opportunity, as a beautiful dream which can never be played out, due to the impossible circumstances of real life. Eugenides has chosen teenages unable to consummate their lust, and placed them next to middle-aged marrieds unable to afford divorce, a lodgers who becomes smitten with his landlord's wife, and a husband who loses his wife's love to Alzheimer's disease. My personal favourites were Deborah Eisenburg's "Some Other, Better Otto" and Alice Munro's "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" - Eugenides calls these the bleakest of the collection (although to my mind Denis Johnson's "Dirty Wedding" and David Gates' "The Bad Thing" are far bleaker, far harder to reconcile with my own understanding of the term "love.") George Saunder's "Jon" I had come across before, but re-read and with great admiration. I have to confess to abandoning both Nabokov's "Spring in Fialta" and Robert Musil's "Tonka"; perhaps I just couldn't cope with shift in style. My lack of enjoyment of these stories is my only reason for rating this collection as a four-star read; but the remaineder I found though-provoking, often exquisitely written, and sometimes profoundly moving.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    I FINALLY finished this book after like...over a year or something. A long time. And even though it took me so long, I recommend reading it the way I did - spaced out. This collection is so awesome that I wouldn't want the stories blurring together in my memory. They're all so different and amazing for very different reasons. Out of all the stories in the book, there were probably only two that I didn't care for. And even those weren't terrible - they just didn't make me feel as much as the othe I FINALLY finished this book after like...over a year or something. A long time. And even though it took me so long, I recommend reading it the way I did - spaced out. This collection is so awesome that I wouldn't want the stories blurring together in my memory. They're all so different and amazing for very different reasons. Out of all the stories in the book, there were probably only two that I didn't care for. And even those weren't terrible - they just didn't make me feel as much as the others did. One story from the collection, "How to Be an Other Woman" by Lorrie Moore, quickly joined my list of favorite short stories of all time. And several others I already knew and loved, such as Chekhov's classic "The Lady with the Little Dog." But even beyond the genius of the stories in the collection, the introduction itself is worth the cost of the book in itself. Eugenides manages to tie all the stories together and effectively explain why a collection of love stories ends up including so many tales of woe, rather than a bunch of fluffy, lovey-dovey, happy-ending stories. HOWEVER, if you're like me and don't like to know anything about the stories before you read them, I'd recommend reading his introduction AFTER you finish the book. I did it this way, and it was a fantastic ending to such an enjoyable year-long read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Angela Elizabeth

    When a short story compilation goes by the subtitle 'Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro' you might be excused for thinking that you already know who will be appearing on this list of usual suspects. This collection, edited by Jeffrey Eugenides, is anything but predictable, however - and that is its greatest strength. Sure, there are a few familiar names here - beyond Chekhov and Munro, there is Raymond Carver, Ovid, Nabokov, and Kundera - but there are plenty of unexpected names interspers When a short story compilation goes by the subtitle 'Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro' you might be excused for thinking that you already know who will be appearing on this list of usual suspects. This collection, edited by Jeffrey Eugenides, is anything but predictable, however - and that is its greatest strength. Sure, there are a few familiar names here - beyond Chekhov and Munro, there is Raymond Carver, Ovid, Nabokov, and Kundera - but there are plenty of unexpected names interspersed throughout, some of whom I would never have thought of as being writers of love stories, including Miranda July, William Faulkner, Denis Johnson and Richard Ford. This is a collection for readers who have read all that there is to be said about love - and still want more! It is a varied collection with something for everyone. There is humour, tragedy and true love. There are marriages, births, deaths, extra-marital affairs, gay relationships and everything in between. This collection is a true joy and I would happily recommend it to all and sundry. Smile, laugh and cry with this collection that is a rollercoaster of emotions for any reader. If nothing else, by the end of this collection, you will have come out on the side of love! This may not be a 'greatest' collection but it is certainly a 'great' one.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Panegyres

    A few stories are conservative choices with ubiquitous homes(Checkov, de Maupassant, Faulkner) but other selections here are fresh and innovative. Eugenides has chosen stories that explore the many wondrous facets of love rather than simply targeting the romantic. On the down side I've always found Guy de Maupassant dry and dated and the story 'Mouche'only further confirmed this for me. Nabokov's story 'Spring in Fialta' is excessive; Moore's second person story 'How to be Another Woman'is diffi A few stories are conservative choices with ubiquitous homes(Checkov, de Maupassant, Faulkner) but other selections here are fresh and innovative. Eugenides has chosen stories that explore the many wondrous facets of love rather than simply targeting the romantic. On the down side I've always found Guy de Maupassant dry and dated and the story 'Mouche'only further confirmed this for me. Nabokov's story 'Spring in Fialta' is excessive; Moore's second person story 'How to be Another Woman'is difficult to digest (although that may relate to a natural aversion of mine towards second person narratives)and Denis Johnson's'Dirty Wedding'falls flat. Other than these all other works are strong. Absolute standouts that I'd recommend to any reader include: 'First Love and Other Sorrows' by Harold Brodkey, 'The Hitchhiking Game' by Milan Kundera, 'Jon' by George Saunders (which in my opinion should have won a Hugo, WFA and Locus Award), 'Red, Rose, White Rose' by Eileen Change, 'Fireworks' by Richard Ford, 'Something that Needs Nothing' by Miranda July, 'The Magic Barrel' by Bernard Malamud and 'The Bear that Came Over the Mountain' by Alice Munro. Rather than recommend it for readers of love stories, I'd recommend My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead for all lovers of the short story.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

    I might have given this book a three or four star rating, if I had not read the last two very unpleasant stories. The last story, "The Bear Came Over the Mountain," was merely unpleasant and a little mean. The ending was contrived and none of the characters were even likable. Still, as literary stories go, this is not bad, and we might have skated off with a three star here. "Innocence," by Harold Brodsky, however, was such an ugly, pornographic, nauseatingly smug and misogynistic work, that it I might have given this book a three or four star rating, if I had not read the last two very unpleasant stories. The last story, "The Bear Came Over the Mountain," was merely unpleasant and a little mean. The ending was contrived and none of the characters were even likable. Still, as literary stories go, this is not bad, and we might have skated off with a three star here. "Innocence," by Harold Brodsky, however, was such an ugly, pornographic, nauseatingly smug and misogynistic work, that it ruined the entire collection for me. How many woman-hating tropes can we find here? Let's start with a protagonist who sees the female character as something to be "had," and rite of passage that he must undergo. Then when he does "have" her, he finds her broken and frigid, and only through ignoring her many, many pleas to stop, does he plunge numbly on until finally, crashing through all of her resistance, doggedly reminding her that he is only doing this to satisfy himself, does he give her a grand, apocalyptic orgasm and make her complete. Really? Fuck this book. If this is what Eugenides considers to be love, I probably don't have any interest in anything he has to say on the subject.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Shipp

    I am pretty sure this is the worst title of a book I have ever seen! I bought it to take with me to Italy. I wanted something I wouldn't finish in 2 days or even 2 weeks. I have been listening to a series of lectures on tape about Reading. He referenced Chekov's short story, The Lady With the Little Dog. I thought, OK, I'll get it and at least read THAT story. Well, It is probably a great story but I didn't love it like I loved Alice Munro's story, The Bear Came Over the Mountain, Harold Brodkey I am pretty sure this is the worst title of a book I have ever seen! I bought it to take with me to Italy. I wanted something I wouldn't finish in 2 days or even 2 weeks. I have been listening to a series of lectures on tape about Reading. He referenced Chekov's short story, The Lady With the Little Dog. I thought, OK, I'll get it and at least read THAT story. Well, It is probably a great story but I didn't love it like I loved Alice Munro's story, The Bear Came Over the Mountain, Harold Brodkey's story, First Love and Other Sorrows, and Mouche,by Gue de Maupassant. (If I could figure out how to underline in this box I would, sorry!). I LOVED these stories. Funny and tender. The book is filled with stories. And clearly, they will touch each of us differently. I am very moved to think of the people writing these things. Finesse. I would guess finesse and such hard work to make it perfect, the balance, rhythm, those words. I appreciate reading and writing more than I ever have.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Terrago

    Like so many of the other reviewers, I have such mixed feelings about rating this book. Some of the short stories sparkle. However, there were a few that left me a little disappointed, though not so much because of the quality of writing, rather because I felt that I didn't belong in this book. My main problem with the collection isn't so much a criticism -- I felt like the whole time I was reading it, I was expecting something so very different than what was there. I suppose that's more my issu Like so many of the other reviewers, I have such mixed feelings about rating this book. Some of the short stories sparkle. However, there were a few that left me a little disappointed, though not so much because of the quality of writing, rather because I felt that I didn't belong in this book. My main problem with the collection isn't so much a criticism -- I felt like the whole time I was reading it, I was expecting something so very different than what was there. I suppose that's more my issue, than the book's. I love love, in all it's many forms. I just felt that it wasn't a theme present in all of the stories -- perhaps the editor was trying to have us see something that wasn't love at all, perhaps he conflated the idea and stretched it too thin. All of the problems aside, I really did love most of the stories, just not as a collection.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I was wavering toward a three star review until I read the last story, a gorgeous piece by Alice Munro in which a man deals with his wife's encroaching dementia. The subtitle "great love stories" is deceiving, as might be expected in a McSweeney's anthology edited by Jeffrey Eugenides. There's love, but also lust and love lost and unrequited love. Not too many happy endings in the batch. There are a few classics, like Faulkner's "A Rose For Emily," alongside some future classics and some misfires I was wavering toward a three star review until I read the last story, a gorgeous piece by Alice Munro in which a man deals with his wife's encroaching dementia. The subtitle "great love stories" is deceiving, as might be expected in a McSweeney's anthology edited by Jeffrey Eugenides. There's love, but also lust and love lost and unrequited love. Not too many happy endings in the batch. There are a few classics, like Faulkner's "A Rose For Emily," alongside some future classics and some misfires. I liked the fact that it was not laid out chronologically. There were a few older stories that seemed timeless; I was surprised by the original publication dates. Standouts for me included "Some Other Better Otto" by Deborah Eisenberg, and "The Bear Came Over the Mountain", the aforementioned Alice Munro story. Both of them made me forget I was reading a story rather than a novel.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Carly

    Because Jeffrey Eugenides takes his sweet time between writing incredible novels, when I heard there was a short story compilation edited by him it was purchased on my amazon account and being shipped to my house as fast as my fingers could go. After reading the first few stories I began to get worried. I didn't bother to read what the theme of the compilation was when I purchased--his name was enough for me. But the first few stories (by some of the 'classics'--Faulkner, Joyce...) had me terrif Because Jeffrey Eugenides takes his sweet time between writing incredible novels, when I heard there was a short story compilation edited by him it was purchased on my amazon account and being shipped to my house as fast as my fingers could go. After reading the first few stories I began to get worried. I didn't bother to read what the theme of the compilation was when I purchased--his name was enough for me. But the first few stories (by some of the 'classics'--Faulkner, Joyce...) had me terrified I had signed up for something I was not interested in at the least. Thankfully, those stories were at the front of the book, and just like trudging down your veggies before you can have dessert, the book got way better. I'm a completionist, I'm a person who needs o finish books, so I can't recommend skipping the first few stories...but if you can hold out it will be worth it!

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