If we set H. E. Bates's best tales against the best of Chekhov's, Graham Greene declared, I do not believe it would be possible, with any conviction, to argue that the Russian was the finer artist. The sampler of H. E. Bates stories presented here shows the merit of that praise and displays the range and aspects of Bates's work from his first published story, "The Flame," to one of his very last, "The Song of the Wren." In his long and prolific literary career, Bates (1905-1974) produced twenty-five novels, a three-volume autobiography, nine books of essays, several plays and children's books, as well as his important and perhaps most enduring achievement, twenty-three collections of short stories. A Month by the Lake & Other Stories displays Bates's extraordinary talent for concisely getting at the heart of the matter. Whether he is dealing with romance in middle age (the title story), or the most painful clarity of a child's world (The Cowslip Field), or encapsulating the disintegration and tragedy of a man and a house and the era and class they represent (The Flag)––Bates's compassion for humanity remains constant. As Anthony Burgess remarks in his introduction, Bates achieved such sovereignty of what literary land he inherited that he deserves the homage of our uncomplicated enjoyment... Bates's affection for ordinary people is one of his shining virtues. But he himself, as I knew, and as this compilation should make clear, was, is, far from ordinary.
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