Most uncollected stories or worst unpublished stories collections tend to be curious and interesting, but often not very good. From my work in college and grad school reading what’s assigned to me and seeing the different ways that professor chose readings and my own choosing. So here I am looking at this giant book of Bernard Malamud short stories and it’s carefully labeled in terms of which stories go with which collection that he published in his lifetime. This is perfect for me so I can jump around and read them carefully. I read his award winning collection last year, The Magic Barrel, which I thought was excellent. I chose the uncollected stories next only because that’s where the whole collected works starts.
So we begin with Bernard Malamud right at the beginning of his career in the early 1940s. I normally start the reviews this year with the first sentence of the book, but I had to pick a different one because the first story involves a scene of anti-semitic violence told in a fairly stark manner, and I didn’t want that to be my review title. But this story is one of the best of the stories. In it, a middle aged shop-owner in US who witnessed anti-Jewish pogroms in Russia is living a paranoid and terrified life in the rise of Nazis and fascism and it’s affecting his life and health. I hate to say this feels a little familiar right now. The stories show the growth of Malamud as he gets older and you can see big jumps in form and style (and confidence of the writing). By the end, he’s well-established and a very well-regarded writer. The success of the collection overall stems from the quality of writing, but also from the fact that he never stopped writing stories even as he began writing novels.