So I've been reading Object Lessons: the Paris Review for nearly the entire day - it's a collection of short stories and as you know, the rule of short stories is that you can never read one only once. I'm halfway through the 14th one and suffering because (as with most short stories) it makes no sense (The Palace Thief by Ethan Canin); nonetheless, this book is definitely living up to the editor's claim that it is "useful to young writers, and to others interested in literary technique." All 13.5 of the stories I've been reading so far prove their educational worth in some form.
One can read through these stories and learn much about "the art of the short story" the same way one could observe a class of students, identify the athlete, artist and writer, and learn much about people.
Joy Williams' Dimmer, the incipient story in this collection, exemplifies the wonderful way an amalgamation of poetry and prose can pan out. James Salter's Bangkok, which abandons the use of quotation marks (I love this) and instead allows the characters' conversation to melt into the pulse of the story, is dialogue-dedicated and henceforth instructive. Mary-Beth Hughes' Pelican Song and Bernard Cooper's Old Birds (the latter is the long lost cousin of Adam Haslett's Notes to my Biographer) exemplify how to seamlessly craft in prose a loving and often heartbreaking parent-child relationship. Let's not forget the killer 'gambling' metaphor in Craig Nova's Another Drunk Gambler.
We've all heard the saying, "Watch and Learn."
Object Lessons shows that it is important, too, to "Read and Learn."