Adventures in Reading


My Mistress’s Sparrow Is Dead edited by Jeffrey Eugenides
January 29, 2008, 4:52 pm
Filed under: book reviews, short stories

“Better a sparrow, living or dead, than no birdsong at all.”

Whenever short story collections are published I am always somewhat weary of them. Of course you have publications like the Best American… series or the Granta collections, and these tend to be pretty phenomenal and useful at being initiated to new authors. However, sometimes newly published collections are nothing but rip offs or designed for the group of people who must have everything in hard back. For example, fairly recently (and now the title escapes me) a collection came out in hardback that was roughly ten classic stories for just under $30. What I found outrageous about this is that for $7 you can purchase a lovely soft back edition that contains all of these stories and usually about 20 or so more.

So when I came across Jeffrey Eugenides’ My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories, from Chekhov to Munro, which would be impossible to not look at because of the cover, I was pleasantly surprised. Eugenides’ explains in his introduction that he spent a year reading love stories and taking recommendations from authors, students, bar tenders, taxi drivers etc on what their favorite love story was. When it comes to the love story, Eugenides explains that he did not search out romance but rather that “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” (xiii).

In addition, all proceeds from this collection fund a free youth-writing program at 826 Chicago. I definitely feel that this is a terrific collection to give in the cause of love (and Valentine’s Day is right around the corner) and youth-writing programs. I admit that I quickly purchased a copy for myself as well as a wedding gift for a literature loving friend.

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