The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford

BY Jean Stafford
Book Information1/1/0/US/FSG/1969/?  •  220x152x45  •  727  •  Pulitzer'70

So today’s Jean Stafford’s centenary birthday, and that means she was born in 1915, a season of literary perfection that also saw the births of Saul Bellow, a master of prose and a Nobel prize winner, and Herman Wouk, a fellow Pulitzer prize winner for “The Caine Mutiny” and the sole survivor of the trio today.

Jean Stafford was renowned for her short stories, many of which were first published in The New Yorker in 1960s, the collection of which, along with stories printed elsewhere, was published in 1969 by FSG and won the Pulitzer prize in 1970 under the title of “The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford”. An alcoholic till the end of her life (she had a tough one), Stafford and her stories remind me of Alan Shore – the maverick lawyer in David Kelley’s  “The Practice” and then “Boston Legal” – for their ebullient irreverence and, more deliciously, for their ability to relate to the dark and fragile side of humanity. Reading Stafford is like reading Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time”, you finish it, as John Ashbery put it saliently, feeling sadder but wiser. Read "In the Zoo", one of Stafford's finest and a O. Henry Prize winner, to find out for yourself.

Another good example is "The End of a Career", the final story of the collection. It is a story about Angelica Early, a modern Narcissus fixated with her youth and the beauty that came with it. It is also a story of obsession, of our reliance on a defining element in life - career, family, love or, in this case, youthful beauty and its ephemerality. When Angelica’s youth, despite relentless preservation, was finally depleted, life became an unbearable elegy ended by grief from the fallacious taunt of a pair of gloves. Such fragility, and so perceptively told: Everyone needs a reason to wake up in the morning. 

The centrality of that defining element in life cannot be overstated. For most, I imagine it is the companionship of a spouse. Justice Anthony Kennedy, in the majority opinion of  Obergefell v Hodges, pointed out that "choices about marriage shaped an individual's destiny" and that "marriage corresponds to the universal fear that a lonely person might be called out only to find no one there". It is no wonder, as actuarial science confirms, that the death of a spouse significantly increases the mortality likelihood of the living remainder. 

This is a first edition first printing with a first state dust jacket that is unclipped and shows the correct price of $10.00. The book is bounded in purple clothed board with red lettering on spine, and has a lilac topstain. The copyright page should state "First printing, 1969".

The book is somewhat rare as a first edition copy is hard to find on eBay but a VG copy can be purchased from abebooks from $150 onwards. This is a NF copy with NF dust jacket in a NF book that is clean and tight.

The dust jacket has no blurb, and the back has a sketch of Jean Stafford.

The book sold for $10 in 1969.

The book is binded in purple cloth. There are two rows of embossed flower motifs, 5 on top and 6 at the bottom followed by the initials "JS".

The title on spine is in red and the publisher name is in black.

The lilac top stain has somewhat faded.

The full title page.

The definitive first edition point is  "First printing, 1969." 6 lines from the top of the copyright page. A good number of the stories were previously published in The New Yorker.

Stafford dedicated the book to Katherine White, her editor and famed New Yorker staff

Content page.

Content page and Author's Note. "The End of a Career" is the last story.

This is the first page of the first story.

The final page.


  1. I find your article interesting and easy to read.
    The centrality of the defining element in life is different for each individual. It may be for family, love, money, or even knowledge.


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