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Behind the Curtain Selected Fiction of Fitz-James O'Brien, 1853-1860
978-1-61149-046-6 • Hardback
May 2011 • $95.00 • (£59.95)
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Pages: 420
Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/2
By Wayne R. Kime
 
Literary Collections | American / General
University Press Copublishing Division | University of Delaware
In the decade that followed his emigration to the United States in 1851, Fitz-James O'Brien (1828-1862) produced a steady stream of contributions to American newspapers and magazines. As short story writer, essayist, poet, dramatist, reporter, reviewer, drama critic, and editor he won reputation as one of the ablest young writers in New York City, displaying what one contemporary termed an "extraordinary" talent. But soon after his early death from complications of a battle wound, the sense of wonder at O'Brien's prolific accomplishments began to dissipate. In 1881 his friend William Winter brought out The Poems and Stories of Fitz-James O'Brien, a one-volume collection that spared him the oblivion that awaits even the ablest magazine writers. That book, with reprintings derived from it, has formed almost by itself the basis for O'Brien's lasting reputation.
In the early decades of the twentieth century O'Brien continued to be admired as the most significant practitioner in the short story in the United States of the 1850s. However, since then the recognition of his achievement has focused on a few tales of the macabre and the supernatural. He is now remembered in two unrelated contexts: as a colorful member of the "Bohemian" circle that flourished in New York City in the years prior to the Civil War, and as author of such stories as "The Diamond Lens," "The Lost Room," and "What Was It? A Mystery."
The present volume reintroduces the fiction of Fitz-James O'Brien to modern readers by presenting fourteen of his works, five here reprinted for the first time, that together suggest the development and range of his accomplishment as a short story writer. Additionally, editorial commentary on individual stories reveals O'Brien's attunement to the fashions, fads, interests, and concerns that manifested themselves in his adopted city and country. Though immersed in the details of his own era, O'Brien cherished a belief that some of his writings would live beyond it. The present collection offers evidence t
Wayne R. Kime taught English at the University of Delaware, the University of Toronto, and Fairmont State University, West Virginia.
Chapter 1 Introduction
Part 2 Behind the Curtain: Selected Fiction of Fitz-James O'Brien
Chapter 3 1: Elegant Tom Dillar (Putnam's Monthly Magazine, May 1853)
Chapter 4 2: Hard-Up (Putnam's Monthly Magazine, July 1854)
Chapter 5 3: Baby Bloom (Harper's New Monthly Magazine, March 1855)
Chapter 6 4: The Bohemian (Harper's New Monthly Magazine, July 1855)
Chapter 7 5: Duke Humphrey's Dinner (Harper's New Monthly Magazine, August 1855)
Chapter 8 6: The Pot of Tulips (Harper's New Monthly Magazine, November 1855)
Chapter 9 7: The Dragon-Fang Possessed by the Conjuror Piou-Lu (Harper's New Monthly Magazine, March 1856)
Chapter 10 8: The Mezzo-Matti (Putnam's Monthly Magazine, November 1856)
Chapter 11 9: Uncle and Nephew (Harper's New Monthly Magazine, March 1857)
Chapter 12 10: The Diamond Lens (Atlantic Monthly, January 1858)
Chapter 13 11: The Lost Room (Harper's New Monthly Magazine, September 1858)
Chapter 14 12: What Was It? A Mystery (Harper's New Monthly Magazine, March 1859)
Chapter 15 13: The Wondersmith (Atlantic Monthly, October 1859)
Chapter 16 14: Mother of Pearl (Harper's New Monthly Magazine, February 1860)
 
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