[PW] ? Quotes from Famous Short Stories (Quotation Query #792)

d-lien University of Minnesota d-lien at umn.edu
Thu Jan 18 10:55:19 PST 2018


Re predecessors of the "world's shortest short story" bit in Fredric
Brown's "Knock."

Originator of the trope was Thomas Bailey Aldrich, in v9 of his collected works,
first published posthumously circa 1911:


Title: The writings of Thomas Bailey Aldrich.
Author(s): Aldrich, Thomas Bailey, 1836-1907.
Publication: Boston : Houghton Mifflin,
Edition: [Ponkapog ed.].
Year: 1907-1911
Description: 9 v. : ill., facsims., ports. ; 20 cm.
Language: English
Contents: v. 1-2.Poems.--v. 3 Marjorie Daw and other stories.--v.
4.Prudence Palfrey, and a Rivermouth romance.--v. 5.The Queen of Sheba
and My cousin the colonel.--v. 6.The Stillwater tragedy.--v. 7.The
story of a bad boy, The little violinist, and other sketches.--v.
8.From Ponkapog to Pesth, and , An old town by the sea.--v. 9.Ponkapog
papers, A sea turn, and other papers.
Class Descriptors: LC: PS1020
Material Type: Fiction (fic)
Document Type: Book
Entry: 19890829
Update: 20030102
Accession No: OCLC: 20275796
Database: WorldCat


http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/AldPonk.html

See pp. 8-9 in the first essay, "Observations: Leaves from a Notebook."

*********************

IMAGINE all human beings swept off the face of the earth,
excepting one man. Imagine this man in some vast city, New York or
London. Imagine him on the third or fourth day of his
solitude sitting in a house and hearing a ring at the door-bell!

***********************
(The section of his "Ponkapog Papers" in question was effectively
Aldrich's commonplace book, and this was in there as a story idea
that he never got to expanding.)

*************************
In 1916, Canadian author Arthur Stringer used a comparable idea in a story
in THE POPULAR MAGAZINE.  I don't know if he got it from Aldrich
or indepently devised it,  but the editor of the magazine who blurbed
the story clearly knew some form of Aldrich's original version:

*******************
>From a copy online at Internet Archive:
http://www.archive.org/details/ThePopularMagazine1916December20

The Popular Magazine [v 43 #1, December 20, 1916] (Street & Smith, 15¢, pulp,
cover by J. Francis Kernan)

<snip>

201 * The Bell * Arthur Stringer * ss

The story blurb for "The Bell" is:

"An answer to the question: 'What would happen if you knew you were the last
human being alive in the world and you were sitting alone in your study, and
suddenly the doorbell rang?"

**************************

The idea apparently passed into the oral tradition enough
for Dashiell Hammett to include a version of it (ascribed to TBA) in
the introduction to his (or "his") anthology, CREEPS BY NIGHT.  (The
"his" because I believe there's considerable question if Hammett
actually did the editing of the anthology, though in any case it
seems fairly certain that he did compose the introduction.)  It reads:
(quoted from my 1931 copy of the anthology)
************************

"One of my own favorites is that attributed, I believe, to Thomas
Bailey Aldrich:

A woman is sitting alone in a house. She knows she is alone
in the whole world: every other living thing is dead. The
doorbell rings.

That has, particularly, the restraint that is almost invariably
the mark of the effective weird tale."

**********************

Fredric Brown's story "Knock" in the December 1948 THRILLING WONDER
STORIES used the "sweet little horror story" as a jumping-off point
for his own story (which is science fiction rather than horror); he
gives no previous author's name for the bit, which was probably by
then traditional.

*******************

However, Borges and others knew of the ascription to Aldrich when
they edited the anthology THE BOOK OF FANTASY and published the
short-short-short as "A Woman Alone With Her Soul."  A review of
the anthology by the noted Canadian man of letters John Robert
Colombo assumed that the editors were kidding.  (Columbo is a
good scholar, but even Jove nods -- I sent him a correction on
this years ago, after seeing his review.)


> From _Worlds in Small_ by John Robert Colombo:
>
> "`A Woman Alone with Her Soul' is the title given to this compact
> work which appears in _The Book of Fantasy_ (N.Y.: Viking, 1988)
> edited by Jorge Luis Borges, Silvina Ocampo, and A. Bioy Casares.
> The editors attribute it, no doubt mischievously, to the once-popular
> American poet Thomas Bailey Aldrich, professing to find the passage
> in Volume 9 of Aldrich's _Works_ (1912). Not only has it not been
> found in Aldrich's writing, there is no multi-volume collection of
> his writings, and while its phraseology is distinctly un-Aldrichian,
> it is quintessentially Borgesian."

*********************

I don't know if Borges got the idea from TBA, Hammett, or elsewhere, nor
do I know how close his Spanish version was to either wording, but
even translated back to English it's clearly the "same" story (or
"story").

*****************************
****************************


As a sidelight, there were several later attempts to re-do the Fredric Brown
version or otherwise come up with an even shorter sf "story" than the one
he quoted at the beginning of "Knock." Some of the attempts are clever;
some . . . are not.  The best-known one may be by Ron Smith, in his
"The Horror Story Shorter By One Letter Than the Shortest Horror Story
Ever Written, " MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, July 1957.

http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?74327

"The last man on Earth sat alone in a room.  There was a LOCK on the door."



Dennis Lien / U of Minnesota Libraries (retired) // d-lien at umn.edu

On Thu, Jan 18, 2018 at 12:21 PM, d-lien University of Minnesota
<d-lien at umn.edu> wrote:
> Garson also asked about
> Periodical: Star Science Fiction Stories No. 1
> Short Story: The Nine Billion Names of God
> Author: Arthur C. Clarke
> Note: I haven't verified this with hardcopy. This data is from Wikipedia.
> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Nine_Billion_Names_of_God
>
> [Begin excerpt]
> Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out.
> [End excerpt]
>
> ***************
> STAR was a original anthology (book) series, not a periodical in the
> usual sense.  Frederik Pohl was the editor and Ballantine Books the
> publisher.  In its early days, they published hc and mass market pb
> editions of their works at the same time (and I assume from the same
> plates), so either should work for verifying first appearance.
>
> However, my copy is of the third printing of the pb, from July 1961.
> According to the copyright information inside, the first printing was
> February 1953 and official publication date was March 1953.
>
> I'm morally certain that no changes were made between the first and
> third (or later) printings, except in the case of the anthology title
> -- the "#1" was a later addition; it was originally just STAR SCIENCE
> FICTION STORIES
>
> http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?35067
>
> but obviously it would be best to find a 1953 copy to be sure.  In my
> 1961 printing, the line is just as you have it: it's the last line of
> the story, which in turn is the last story in the anthology, and it
> appears on page 202.
>
> Dennis Lien / d-lien at umn.edu
>
>
> On Wed, Jan 17, 2018 at 4:23 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole
> <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Here is a line from another story in Raymond Carver's "Cathedral"
>> collection followed lines from two well-regarded science fiction
>> stories.
>>
>> Year: 1983
>> Short Story: A Small, Good Thing
>> Collection: Cathedral
>> Author: Raymond Carver
>> Note: I haven't verified this with hardcopy. This quotation is in the
>> 18th edition of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. In the original story
>> I think the text is between quotation marks and "he said" is appended.
>>
>> [Begin excerpt]
>> You have to eat and keep going. Eating is a small, good thing in a
>> time like this.
>> [End excerpt]
>>
>>
>> Year: 1953
>> Periodical: Star Science Fiction Stories No. 1
>> Short Story: The Nine Billion Names of God
>> Author: Arthur C. Clarke
>> Note: I haven't verified this with hardcopy. This data is from Wikipedia.
>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Nine_Billion_Names_of_God
>>
>> [Begin excerpt]
>> Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out.
>> [End excerpt]
>>
>>
>> Date: December 1948
>> Short Story: Knock
>> Author: Fredric Brown
>> Periodical: Thrilling Wonder Stories
>> Note: I haven't verified this with hardcopy. This data is from Wikipedia.
>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knock_(short_story)
>>
>> [Begin excerpt]
>> The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door...
>> [End excerpt]
>>
>> Garson
>>
>> On Wed, Jan 17, 2018 at 1:26 PM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at yale.edu> wrote:
>>> Quotation dictionaries don't usually include many quotations from short stories, but I'm trying to do so in my upcoming revised edition.  Can anyone point me to crucial or particularly memorable quotes from any of these famous short stories:
>>>
>>>
>>> Anton Chekhov, "The Bet"
>>>
>>> Joyce Carol Oates, "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"
>>>
>>> Raymond Carver, "Cathedral"
>>>
>>>
>>> Or, for that matter, I would welcome any suggestions of crucial or particularly memorable quotes from other short stories as well.
>>>
>>> Fred Shapiro
>>>
>>>
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> Project Wombat - Project-wombat
>>> list at project-wombat.org
>>> http://www.project-wombat.org/
>> _______________________________________________
>> Project Wombat - Project-wombat
>> list at project-wombat.org
>> http://www.project-wombat.org/


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