Introduction by JEREMY TREGLOWN
“In his daily walks through London,” notes Jeremy Treglown in his Introduction to this collection, “Pritchett watched and listened to people as a naturalist observes wild creatures and birds. He knew that oddity is the norm, not the exception.” This finely attuned sense, coupled with an understanding that nothing in life is mundane, is what makes these stories so immensely enjoyable. Drawing on a vast treasure chest of writings, Treglown has selected sixteen of Pritchett’s gems, including “A Serious Question,” which makes its debut in book form here. Featuring some of the best work from a long career, this new compilation of Pritchett’s brilliantly compact stories illuminates his legendary skills.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of eBook: Essential Stories|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Random House Publishing Group|
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The Sack of Lights
She was an old charwoman whose eyes stared like two bits of tin and whose lips were twisted like rope round three protruding teeth. All day long she was down on her knees scrubbing flights of stone stairs, cleaning out evil passages, emptying oozy pails down the drain with the soapsuds frilled about it, and listening to its dirty little voice gulping out of the street. All day long she chattered to herself and sang “Valencia, land of oranges . . .” and broke out into laughter so loud at some fantastic recollection that it sounded as though she had kicked her pail downstairs.
One evening, after a week’s absence from her work, she said mysteriously, as she left the house, “I’m going to do it again. I’m going orf to git me lights.”
“Yes, ’e stopped me ’e did. ‘Better practise it at ’ome,’ ’e said. So I took the lot. I took the train, an’ rockets, an’ that wicked ol’ General with the monercle, oh, I took ’im. I took ’em all ’ome. O, ’e warn’t ’arf a wicked ol’ dear.” She laughed, and her teeth seemed to skip up and down like three acrobats with the rope lips twirling round them. “Yer know what ’e called me, the ol’ monercle? ‘Lor,’ says ’e, peeping through the winder, ‘ain’t she a proper beauty!’ That’s what ’e called me. We didn’t ’arf dance.”
“Trains! Rockets? Generals? Dance?” The people of the house touched their sound foreheads. “Gone, oh quite gone,” said