The Complete Stories of Mary Butts
  • Author: Butts, Mary
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Pages: 432
  • Size: 5-1/2 x 8-1/2"
  • Pub. Year: 2014
  • ISBN: 978-1-62054-009-1
  • In Stock: Yes
Price: $20.00



Read opening pages: 35 pages

Preface by John Ashbery.
Foreword by Bruce R. McPherson.

The short stories of Mary Butts (1890-1937) possess an intriguing relation to the present moment. They both embody their time—the Lost Generation during the ’20s and ’30s—and possess a stylistic freshness and intellectual breadth that feels very akin to our present day. As John Ashbery remarks in his preface, “After reading Butts one is left with an impression of dazzle, of magic, but what made it is hard to pin down...One keeps getting the feeling that these stories were written yesterday.” Now, for the first time in a single volume, all three of her story collections have been gathered, and seven uncollected stories have been added (including two pieces never before published). The power of hidden things and things of hidden power preoccupy these distinctive tales of love and betrayal, magic and mummery, belief and folly. Here, in the realm of active imagination, the veil between natural and supernatural may be rent apart in an instant, and just as quickly restored. The novelist and poet Glenway Wescott declared Mary Butts’s first collection of stories, Speed the Plough, “the announcement of a new intellect, acute and passionate, to scrutinize experience with an unfamiliar penetration,” which he then compared epochally with James Joyce’s Dubliners. Marianne Moore, Evelyn Waugh, HD, Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Ford, and Virgil Thomson all championed her work, and during her tragically brief lifetime Mary Butts’s reputation rivaled Katherine Mansfield’s and Virginia Woolf’s. Her style is swift, elliptical and emotionally charged, exactly matched to the free-wheeling lives of her characters in Paris and London during an explosive era.

Publishers Weekly's starred advance review 11/10/2014:
"As John Ashbery writes in his preface to this comprehensive volume of short fiction by British modernist Butts, known for her elliptical dialogue, quick-cutting scenes, and deviant characters: 'One keeps getting the feeling that these stories were written yesterday.' The three collections (1923's Speed the Plough, 1932's Several Occasions, and 1938's Last Stories), as well as some uncollected stories being published for the first time, gathered here exemplify the way Butts brought her keenly prescient style and perspective to the great themes of her time and class: upper-crust types who take on moral charity cases, dinner parties gone awry, vague breaches of etiquette, women's burgeoning sensuality and power, and the paranormal. Some of Butts's most accessible stories are charming, straightforward country-house murder mysteries ('In Bloomsbury') and atmospheric ghost tales ('Look Homeward, Angel'; 'With and Without Buttons'), but her cast of wealthy and down-and-out Londoners, Parisians, and Americans entertain as they navigate intricate domestic and social concerns, too. Relationships and even lives hang in the balance over, for instance, an abrupt knock at the door ('The House Party,' dedicated to Jean Cocteau) or the botched delivery of an invitation to cocktails ('The Warning'). Throughout, Butts draws the eye to details both grimy and glittering—city streets that 'gleamed like stale fish,' a woman's reflection 'like a child that has been dipped in dew.' And then there are her indelible descriptions of Paris, where, as she writes in 'The Master's Last Dancing,' which ran in The New Yorker in 1998, 'everything happens.' This hefty volume substantiates Butts as an essential observer of fetes and failures who merits reading alongside her better-known contemporaries."

Mark Valentine's Wormwood blog review: "This edition of her complete stories should at last see Mary Butts take her place as one of the most original, thoughtful and innovative writers of supernatural fiction in English in the 20th century..."

"No modernist writer has explored with such accuracy the nacreous qualities of female aggression and power and the words for it all -- aggression between the sexes, yes of course, but, more interestingly and startingly, the schematics and schisms between mothers, daughters, and daughters-in-law, between girlfriend and girlfriend, and between girlfriends playing mother and daughter, playing sisters and more than sisters."
-- Voice Literary Supplement

She drank with Hemingway at Les Deux Magots; Virgil Thompson courted her; among her best friends she counted H.D. and Bryher, and corresponded at length with Charles Williams, but Virginia Woolf hated her perfume. She lived more outrageously than Jean Rhys and was considered a better writer than Katherine Mansfield...


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