First Fiction: An Anthology of the First Published Stories by Famous Writers

Here is where it all began — the professional fiction-writing careers of forty-one of our century's finest authors, from Raymond Carver and Alice Walker to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ursula K. Le Guin. Spanning nearly eight decades, these short stories mark their creators' breakthroughs from amateur writer to published author. Standing as a testament to the writers' youth and ambition, they bear witness to the emergence of some of the most distinctive literary voices of our time. As Jane Smiley writes in the introduction to First Fiction, "Education begins with publication." The brief biographical notes that preface each story provide insight into this learning process and detail the circumstances surrounding publication. Nelson Algren's debut, for example, was preceded by a jail sentence served for stealing a typewriter. Mary McCarthy's first story is based on the bitter breakup of her first marriage. In many cases, the author's thoughts about his or her craft are also included. ("I can do this!" Mark Helprin realized.). Some of these stories blazed a trail of glory to literary eminence for their authors, while others were more like a trace of light at dawn: William Saroyan's first published fiction brought him instant recognition; Charles Bukowski, on the other hand, languished in obscurity for several decades after his professional debut. Some of the authors are easily recognizable: most readers will identify as Kurt Vonnegut's "The Barnhouse Effect," a Cold War story about the most powerful weapon on earth. The authors of other stories, such as Doris Lessing, are barely recognizable. Youth and age are both represented here — from Tennessee Williams's debut at seventeen with "The Vengeance of Nitocris" to Henry Miller's at forty with his story "Mademoiselle Claude." These stories represent the true starting points of the careers of some of the most talented writers of our time. First Fiction is fascinating reading for all those interested in the creative proces

Contents:So help me / Nelson Algren

The war in the bathroom / Margaret Atwood

Previous condition / James Baldwin

The state of grace / Harold Brodkey

Aftermath of a lengthy rejection slip / Charles Bukowski

Miriam / Truman Capote

Furious seasons / Raymond Carver

Expelled / John Cheever

Landing in luck / William Faulkner

Babes in the woods / F. Scott Fitzgerald

Albergo Empedocle / E.M. Forster

The end of the party / Graham Greene

Because of the waters of the flood / Mark Helprin

In our time / Ernest Hemingway

Crazy in the stir / Chester B. Himes

After you, my dear Alphonse / Shirley Jackson

Territory / David Leavitt

April in Paris / Ursula K. Le Guin

The pig / Doris Lessing

Cruel and barbarous treatment / Mary McCarthy

Wunderkind / Carson McCullers

The greatest thing in the world / Norman Mailer

Benefit performance / Bernard Malamud

Mademoiselle Claude / Henry Miller

A basket of strawberries / Alice Munro

In the old world / Joyce Carol Oates

The geranium / Flannery O'Connor

Goodbye and good luck / Grace Paley

Such a pretty little picture / Dorothy Parker

The day it snowed / Philip Roth

The daring young man on the flying trapeze / William Saroyan

Flash in the pan / Irwin Shaw

Gimpel the fool / Isaac Bashevis Singer

And baby makes three / Jane Smiley

The seraph and the Zambesi / Muriel Spark

Oil field vignettes / Jim Thompson

Friends from Philadelphia / John Updike

Report on theBarnhouse Effect / Kurt Vonnegut

To hell with dying / Alice Walker

Death of a traveling salesman / Eudora Welty

The vengeance of Nitocris / Tennessee Williams