Ed

H. E. Bates, ‘supreme among English short story writers’

This month we release The Beauty of the Dead and Other Stories, and The Flying Goat by H. E. Bates as part of our ongoing project to republish all of his short story collections and novellas. Described as ‘supreme among English short story writers’ by Graham Greene, these collections showcase his remarkable ability. Both collections include additional stories, never previously published as part of a collection


The Beauty of the Dead and Other StoriesThe Beauty of the Dead and Other Stories
, including stories that ‘all have that delicate luminosity by which visions are seen more clearly than in the bright sunlight’ explores relationships and characters both in life and death.‘Old’ is a snapshot of an elderly man – no longer appreciated or respected by his children and extended family – during a Sunday tea. He finds a companion in his seven-year-old grand-niece, making animal shapes out of biscuits and eventually falling into a “mesmeric peace” as she brushes his hair.‘The Bridge’ is narrated by a twenty-two-year-old woman while she and her older sister vie for the attention of the same man. The Spectator praised it as “a masterly short story…courageously conceived… thick with symbolism, it is a triumphant display of control.”

The Flying Goat jacketThe Flying Goat, which ‘stands as a fine memorial of the country which was once behind the lines’ features stories threaded with lyrical, crystalline descriptions of the English countryside, addressing romantic, familial and marital tensions. ‘A Funny Thing’ is an escalating bragging match between Uncle Silas and Uncle Cosmos. Cosmos is modelled on Bates’s paternal grandfather, Charles Lawrence, who was “known about Rushden as a dapper and dashing figure who spent his holidays in the south of France, where he reputedly had a number of mistresses”. A television adaptation starring Albert Finney was aired in 2003. The Times Literary Supplement singled out ‘The White Pony’ and ‘The Ox’ as “faultless things, jewels as luminous and as finely cut as any Mr. Bates has turned out. In each of them the evocative strength of his countryside pictures is joined to a still and poignant emotion that seems to project a background of universal experience for a particular sorrow.”

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