Friday, May 22, 2020

Thirteen O'Clock: Stories of Several Worlds (1937) by Stephen Vincent Benét. COVID-19 Recreational Reading

Thirteen O'Clock: Stories of Several Worlds (1937) by Stephen Vincent Benét

Benét was a staple of junior high reading back in the day. Never as well-known as his American contemporaries (Fitzgerald, Stein, Faulkner, Wharton, Hurston, Hemingway, Wolfe, Buck) today, he is probably best known for "John Brown's Body" (1928), an epic poem which won the Pulitzer Prize. This collection of stories includes three well known works, 'The Devil and Daniel Webster', 'The Sobbin' Women' (later turned into the musical 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' (1954), and, perhaps most famously, 'By the Waters of Babylon'). 'Babylon', a classic (and early) post-apocalyptic depiction of a collapsed world society was written in response to the Fascist bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. At one point, the young narrator, after exploring the ruins of what was New York, recounts the advice of his father: "He was right—it is better the truth should come little by little. I have learned that, being a priest. Perhaps, in the old days, they ate knowledge too fast."

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