Read The Old Forest and Other Stories by Peter Taylor Online


From the grand master of the American short story, these fourteen tales of domestic life in the South during the thirties and forties explore that extraordinary world of manners, expectations and unspoken understanding. The reader is drawn as if by magnetic force into a world rendered in breathtaking, painterly detail. These stories are marvelous entertainments, rich withFrom the grand master of the American short story, these fourteen tales of domestic life in the South during the thirties and forties explore that extraordinary world of manners, expectations and unspoken understanding. The reader is drawn as if by magnetic force into a world rendered in breathtaking, painterly detail. These stories are marvelous entertainments, rich with amusement, yet Taylor renders his characters truly and understands them in a profoundly meaningful way....

Title : The Old Forest and Other Stories
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780312146955
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 368 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Old Forest and Other Stories Reviews

  • Stephen Brooke
    2019-04-17 04:57

    Peter Taylor is, admittedly, one of my favorite modern writers of the short story. Yes, the stories largely reflect a certain sort of upper-class Southerner of the past. Taylor wrote from what he knew.That included a certain amount of racism and class snobbishness, both overt and implicit. The title story handles both deftly and insightfully, how they are woven into the lives of the characters and how they impact the internal life of the narrator.Complex relationships are the bases of many of these stories, often filtered through the narrators’ viewpoints — viewpoints that may not be completely valid, but express the central argument. These are people working through the changes in their lives, their families, their society.I can understand the book not being everyone’s cup of Southern Comfort. It is a world as distant, as alien, to some as anything from the pen of Dickens, yet as fully realized. The language, generally rather formal and even stately, could be off-putting. I feel it suits the material, the lives of these people in an evaporating world.It’s an authentic language and an authentic world. Taylor has created characters we can believe in, whom we can see muddling along, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. Very much recommended.

  • Tom
    2019-04-14 05:11

    Taylor is the master of the unreliable narrator. At first, his stories seem like nothing more than "stories of manners" of aristocratic and polite Southern society from a vanished time, but then as the ironic narration begins to reveal itself, they become harrowing portraits of families hiding behind layers of suppressed emotions and beliefs. "The Prodigal Son" and "A Friend and Protector" are best examples from this collection. The latter has so many levels of irony it's impossible to know for sure where to begin peeling them back. Among the great Southern short story writers, Taylor tends to get nudged into the shadows of Welty and O'Connor, but he is very bit their equal.

  • Matt Simmons
    2019-04-22 07:07

    A four star book with some five-star stories. This is Taylor's standard fare; this is not, however, to say it's just the same old thing all over again. We have a wonderful mix of stories that were written in the early 1980s and collected for the first time here, combined with re-printings of some very strong stories from Taylor's earlier collections. "The Old Forest" is one of the three best stories I've ever read (behind "The Dead" and "The Beast in the Jungle"), and "A Long Fourth" is astoundingly incredible. "A Walled Garden" and "Allegiance" are the closest Taylor ever gets to experimental fiction, and are wonderfully rewarding in their own strangeness. "The Little Cousins" and "Promise of Rain" are minor masterpieces of domestic life and manners, of the power and problematics of nostalgia. Yet, the one-act play at the end drags the collection down and leaves us feeling flat as we close the last page. Taylor, for all his stated desires to be a dramatist, is a mediocre one at best; he cannot write a play with the level of nuanced, invested detachment he uses in his stories; "Death of a Kinsman" would have been another strong short story, but is very weak as a play. While always a concern throughout his work, race relations are presented significantly and complexly in many of these stories, showing a deeply moving portrait of a world Hollywood has us understand all too simply. The black servant class of the urban, midcentury South were neither agency-less, powerless automatons, nor were they necessarily noble and heroic transgressors of the injustice leveled against them. They were, just as much as those that employed them, flawed human beings whose everyday lives were negotiations of chance, circumstance, belief, and dreams within flawed and often unjust contexts. Taylor always did an exemplary job of showing the whites of his world in such a light; these stories reveal the same sympathy for the black individuals he, and his society, knew, and his presentation of these complications in this collection is, indeed, commendable. Ultimately then, a very fine book of short stories. Unfortunately for eleven of the thirteen, "The Old Forest" and "A Long Fourth" are magisterial, staggering works of immense beauty. The other eleven get lost, making this a fine, but uneven collection. Still, highly recommended--though you should skip the play.

  • Jen
    2019-03-28 01:14

    These are stories that examine the South in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Taylor examines the nuances of familial and romantic relationships in a minutia, and with lazar precision. He is also gifted writing in first person narration, with narrators reflecting on a moment in history that changed them, often a complicated point of telling. Peter Taylor’s stories remind me a bit of Cheever, perhaps because they are both character studies encased in a specific kind of society, and told without frill. Perhaps it is because they came from the same generation of writers. Either way Taylor has made his way alongside one of my longtime favorites, Cheever, and I’m not quite sure how I overlooked him for so long.

  • Richard
    2019-03-28 07:18

    I have to admit that I feel like a heel giving this book 2 stars and now writing these comments to explain why. Because I met Peter Taylor in graduate school, just a year or so before his death, and he was one of the few professional writers we met who was not a complete jerk. He was kindly, generous about answering our apprentice-level questions and eager to learn about our ideas from us rather than just lecture at us.And though I am quite fond of the two opening stories in this collection ("Gift of the Prodigal" and the title story), and I was also fond of "Bad Dreams," a lot of the stories in here were simply agonizing to get through. Reading Taylor in one collection is probably a bad idea, for his method quickly becomes transparent, and often I found that I didn't have the patience to go along with him most of the time. I wouldn't go so far as to agree with Updike's assessment of Taylor's work consisting of "prissy, circuitous prose," but I did find many of his beginnings very tedious to entertain--this, mind you, with my second reading of this book (the first was shortly out of graduate school). Even when I remembered where a story was going, I often found myself irritated with waiting for the style to get me there. Taylor often comes to intriguing endings for his stories, but the beginnings are way too typical of each other, often starting with disconnected whisperings of others or vague dialogue. Though I often see what he is trying to do, I simply found myself rather disinterested in it.Perhaps what would have bothered me less would have been an attitude like John Cheever's in his introduction toThe Stories of John Cheever, where he commented that he found it unfortunate that the collection was chronological and that the early stories showed too much of a shock at people's shortcomings--Taylor's work could have used more of that in the stories besides the ones I mentioned before.My apologies, Mr. Taylor. I don't know what came over me.

  • Val
    2019-03-31 07:15

    Absolutely wonderful. My first encounter with Peter Taylor was with his short story "Venus Cupid Folly and Time." After that I read his first two novels and decided to pick up The Old Forest a few months later. Taylor is truly the Henry James of southern literature. There is no one better at conveying the social angst and insecurities of the wealthy and dying southern aristocracy. I would recommend this book to anyone.

  • Tim
    2019-04-02 05:16

    Peter Taylor, from an upper class Southern family and a Harvard man, is the kind of writer one doesn't see that much of these days. If he transgresses, he does so politely, with an awareness of the sensibilities of the civilized white reader. His characters are mostly proper, well-off white Memphians, yet their lives are frequently involved with the less fortunate, particularly the black folks whom they employ. His prose is very nicely put together, with a good amount of realistic detail, along with interesting insights into his characters. In fact many of these stories turn on the subtle revelation of a character, or the true nature of a relationship. His big subjects seem to be family relationships, loyalty (of family members, of servants and masters), and the interdependence of white and black folks in the South."The Old Forest" is the best story here, and it was encountering this that made me want to read more of his work. It is a real classic, a gracefully written, almost novella-length tale of troubled young romance and class in the South. In it, a young man of means is running around with a lower class girl in the weeks leading up to his marriage to a proper young lady. This kind of behavior is quite the norm in the world of this story, and the guy is a decent sort, but still totally clueless as to the feelings he may be arousing in others and the pain he could cause them. He gets into a car accident, and his semi-paramour flees the scene and vanishes, thus causing a big problem for all concerned. The police begin looking for her, and his wedding has to be postponed. Finally his fiancee takes charge and begins to sort things out.I was hoping the other stories would be up to this standard, but most of them are not as outstanding. "A Friend and Protector" was fascinating and eloquent, the story of a troubled black servant and the white family that always rescues him and forgives him. "The Little Cousins" is a nice look at the excitements of a bourgeois Memphis childhood, and is one of several stories that looks at the relations of young folks and their elders. In "The Gift of the Prodigal", a rascal of a son provides his bored, lonely father with some vicarious excitement. "A Long Fourth" was also very enjoyable, a study of an extended family, focusing on the matriarch, as it goes about a summer get-together. There is not much of a plot, but the piece as effective as a family portrait in a certain time and place.If you are interested in Southern literature and stories of bourgeois families, this is well worth a look.

  • John
    2019-04-15 23:56

    Good psychological stories, of people trying to understand other people, or beginning to understand them. "I felt that I had never looked at her really or had any conception of what sort of person she was or what her experience in life was like. Now it seemed I would never know. I suddenly realized—at that early age—that there was experience to be had in life that I might never know anything about except through hearsay and through books."In each story there are moments of obscure tension—should you be nervous?—and then while you're reading on high alert he'll go on not quite getting to the point. So the scenes feel rich. Sometimes cinematic in its images—the boy standing looking into the fully-stocked fridge, while his sister and her boyfriend are silent in the next room; a woman's voice and carriage changing, in the instant the light switches on—but not grand cinematography, more like filmmaking out of day-to-day events that would seem pretty ordinary to the people not experiencing them. Also some interesting bits about women performing as well as they can the roles available to them, sometimes wishing they could have other roles."I was sitting on a cotton trough beside one of those windows, eating my club sandwich, when I heard the telephone ring back in the inner office. ... At first I thought I wouldn't answer the phone. I let it ring for a minute or two. It went on ringing—persistently. Suddenly I realized that a normal business call would have stopped ringing before now. I jumped down from my perch by the window and ran back between the cotton troughs to the office."

  • Barbara Parker
    2019-04-15 02:25

    Peter Taylor was a brilliant writer. The Old Forest was but one of this collection of short stories that brought to life the conflicting social strata -- and mores -- in the Memphis of the late 1930's. Taylor is a quiet writer who weaves a spell that the reader finds him/herself enveloped in. Although all the stories in this volume are excellent, The Old Forest is perhaps one of the finest short stories I have ever read.

  • Tom Leland
    2019-03-27 06:21

    To understand Southern society of the mid-20th century, and more importantly, to understand how blacks' life of servitude was just a milder version of outright slavery, you need someone from that world, a masterful storyteller, and one who saw things from the black point of view. Surely Taylor is one of the only writers who qualify.Like some other readers here, I too felt some of these pieces were difficult to follow -- but the good ones are so very good.

  • Gwen
    2019-04-05 00:04

    Excellent stories although I don't think I quite made it through all of them. It sounds odd but I remember thinking that I wasn't quite worthy of these stories -- that they were so well written that maybe I shouldn't be reading them -- something akin to not using the good furniture unless company is visiting. Don't know why I have that impression but there it is.

  • Lexi Byers
    2019-03-25 07:08

    Poignant stories of people and families trapped by a way of life that is no longer in step with the rest of the world; Taylor is the Southern version of John Marquand. Some may find his stories a bit musty, but they are beautifully written with an aching sensitivity to the destructive walls that we can build around ourselves even in the most intimate family relationships.

  • Anthony Turpin
    2019-04-15 02:57

    Jonathan Yardley of The Washington Post says, "There is not a finer work of short fiction in American literature than the title story of this collection, and others — “The Gift of the Prodigal,” most particularly — are not far behind it. The book that brought this incomparable writer out of obscurity."

  • Scott Cox
    2019-03-30 04:59

    These 14 stories by Tennessee-born author Peter Taylor portray the old aristocratic Southern way of life (e.g. Tennessee) during the 1930's and 40's. Taylor won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel "Summons to Memphis," and is an excellent Southern story teller.

  • Mia
    2019-04-17 05:23

    I continue to adore the title story.

  • Susanna
    2019-04-12 07:08

    peter taylor should be more read

  • Robin
    2019-04-16 04:03

    Some good ones here.

  • Rick
    2019-04-01 05:09

    Recommended by Jonathan Yardley in the Washington Post on 1 Jan. 2010 with title story described as "the greatest short story ever written by an American."

  • John
    2019-03-25 23:12

    These stories soar in the literary air. I love this writer.

  • Nathanael Myers
    2019-04-12 23:16

    A master short story writer.

  • Marie
    2019-03-25 04:12

    I feel that I now understand a bit more about the relationship between Southerners and their household help during the early part of the century.

  • Edwin Arnaudin
    2019-04-20 01:02

    "The Old Forest" itself is pretty good, but not fantastic. I'd still like to read the rest of the collection, though, since I find the old Memphis setting and society to be interesting.

  • Brenda
    2019-03-25 04:11

    Excellent short stories ---

  • James
    2019-03-28 03:17

    Stories range over years 1940s to 1980s. Old-time, well-told tales.

  • Scott
    2019-04-08 04:10

    like a 1930's Memphis Updike, rich but mired in one context. Started (and stayed) slow, but it grew on me as a fairly masterful working of short-story form.