Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Great Modern American Stories

William Dean Howells - The Great Modern American Stories (1920)

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As I've posted before and probably will again, I'm fascinated by these looks at how who are considered canonical writers or at least respected ones have changed.  There are some here that would raise no eyebrows today - Twain, James, Wharton, Dreiser, Jewett.  But Frank Stockton?  George Ade?  They're mostly left to specialists now though most likely because they're entertaining writers and perhaps not so easy to market to modern gatekeepers.

And then there are the ones I don't recognize - Landon R. Dashiell, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, T.B. Aldrich.  The latter two have decent-sized Wikipedia pages but not the first though since she seems to have written only this one story maybe that's not a surprise.  (There is a discussion of Landonia Dashiell, she was a woman using a masculine pen name, by Elizabeth S. D. Engelhardt in the collection Writing in the Kitchen: Essays on Southern Literature and Foodways.)  It's perhaps worth noting that 10 of the 24 stories are by women writers which is unusually high for this period.  In a way the book perhaps more indicates what Howells was pushing as great American writing than a more neutral reflection of any consensus (Freeman was awarded the first William Dean Howells Medal in 1925).