Monday, April 2, 2007

Today's Short Story by Elizabeth Parsons

Today's short story is The Nightingales Sing by Elizabeth Parsons. I found this in The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. In 1947, this story, which was published in The New Yorker, was the third prize O. Henry Award winner. It is also included in a book called Short Story Masterpieces, edited by Robert Penn Warren and Albert Erskine. There is even a musical piece by Adolpho Nunez based on a popular song which was featured in the story.

For I'd rather hear your fiddle
and the tone of one string
Than watch the waters a-gliding,
Hear the nightingales sing.

If I ever return
It wil be in the spring
To watch the waters a-gliding,
Hear the nightingales sing.

The story was featured in a collection called An Afternoon, and this is what was written in Time Magazine:

Monday, Sep. 23, 1946
Sympathetic Surfaces

AN AFTERNOON (205 pp)—Elizabeth Parsons—Viking ($2.50).

Most of the 17 short stories in this collection have already been printed in the New Yorker and Harper's Bazaar. They are the product of an able craftsman, content to plow a narrow field, and not very deeply.

Like most New Yorker short story writers, Author Parsons knows how to reproduce scenes from middle-class American life with photographic neatness, and a restraint that verges on bloodlessness. Author Parsons' characters are often worn to the bone by despair and nostalgia, but they are rarely impolite; they give vent to long sighs, but never to bad language.

I don't agree at all. The Nightingales Sing is twelve pages long, and is a very descriptive story. The author shows us the houses, the land, and makes us feel the foggy air. The gist of the story is one most of us go through as we begin to enter our early twenties. We see a way of life which is completely different from anything we have known, and people who are different, a bit wild, and oh, so appealing. Some people go toward it, and stay there while others assimilate it as a life's experience, viewing it with fondness but not really embracing it as the path to follow. I thought the story was extremely well-written, and I enjoyed it.

There were no trees at all, only the bright-green, cattle-cropped pastures...
The house itself was big and plain, almost square, with a great chimney settled firmly across the ridge-pole...
The world of the pictures was as fresh and good and simple as a May morning; the sun shone and everyone was happy.
A drawn window shade moved inward and fell back again in the night breeze that rustled the thick, wet trees close outside.


  1. Totally off today's topic, but I think I forgot to tell you I found a copy of Little Christmas and love it. Thanks for telling us about it.

    I am now hunting for a copy for each of my two sisters.

  2. I am so, so pleased. Thanks so much for telling me, Kat.


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