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Extremely Entertaining Short Stories


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About the Author

Stacy Aumonier was born near Regent's Park, London, in March 1877 (not in 1887, as often incorrectly recorded). He came from a family with a strong and sustained tradition in the visual arts. His father, William Aumonier, was an architectural sculptor (founder of the Aumonier Studios off Tottenham Court Road) and his uncle was the painter, James Aumonier R.I. The name, 'Aumonier,' came from Huguenot ancestors. Stacy attended Cranleigh School in Surrey from age 13. Although he would later write critically about English public schools (including in a NEW YORK TIMES article, which became the subject of an editorial in that paper) for the manner in which he considered they tried to impose conformity on their students, his record indicates that he integrated comfortably into Cranleigh. He was an ardent cricket player, belonged to the Literary and Debating Society, and became a prefect in his final year there. When he left school, he seemed destined to follow family tradition, studying and working in the visual arts, in particular as a landscape painter. He exhibited paintings at the Royal Academy in 1902 and 1903, and in 1908 he exhibited a design for the entrance hall of a house. An exhibition of his work was held at the Gouptil Gallery in 1911. In 1907, at Ewell in Surrey, he married the international concert pianist, Gertrude Peppercorn, daughter of the landscape painter Arthur Douglas Peppercorn (sometimes called 'the English Corot'), and they had one son, Timothy, born in 1921. A year after his marriage, Aumonier began a career in a second branch of the arts at which he enjoyed outstanding success - as a stage performer writing and performing his own sketches. ' - the stage lost in him a real and rare genius,' said the OBSERVER in an Appreciation published on 29th December 1928, shortly after Aumonier's death, 'he could walk out alone before any audience, from the simplest to the most sophisticated, and make it laugh or cry at will.' In 1913, Aumonier published his first short story. In 1917, he was called up for active service in World War I at age 40, serving first as a private in the Army Pay Corps, and then working as a draughtsman in the Ministry of National Service. The Army medical board in 1916 had put down his occupation as 'actor and writer.' By the end of the following year, he had four books published - two novels and two books of short stories - and his occupation is recorded just as 'author.' In the 1920s he enjoyed an unrivalled reputation on both sides of the Atlantic as a short-story writer. In the mid-1920s, Aumonier was diagnosed with tuberculosis. In the last few years of his life, he would spend long spells in various sanatoria, finally seeking treatment in Switzerland, where he died of the disease in 1928. Contemporary accounts - and his own letters, even at the worst times of his illness - suggest that Aumonier was an immensely likeable, witty man. The chief fiction critic of the OBSERVER, Gerald Gould wrote: 'His gifts were almost fantastically various; they embraced all the arts; but it was the charm and generosity of his personality which made him - what he unquestionably was - one of the most popular men of his generation.' It went on: 'The things he wrote will be remembered when the company of his friends (no man had more friends, or more devoted and admiring) are with him in the grave; but just now, to those who knew him, the thing most vividly present is the charm and wisdom of the man they knew.' Gerald Cumberland (in 'Written in Friendship, a Book of Reminiscences') gave an interesting account of the appearance Aumonier presented: 'A distinguished man, this - distinguished both in mind and appearance. Self-conscious. Perhaps. Why not? His hair is worn a trifle long, and it is arranged so that his fine forehead, broad and high, may be fully revealed. Round his neck is a very high collar and a modern stock. When in repose, his face has a look of shy eagerness; his quick eyes glance here and there gathering a thousand impressions to be stored up in his brain. It is the face of a man extremely sensitive to external stimulus; one feels that his brain works not only rapidly, but with great accuracy. And at heart, he takes himself and his work seriously, though he likes on occasion to pretend that he is only a philanderer.'


' - The recently published collection of Aumonier's 'Extremely Entertaining Short Stories' has certainly helped bring this overlooked talent to a new audience. Aumonier's stories are not only hilarious, full of wit and genuine warmth for his subjects, but also beautifully constructed insights into the various absurdities of human behaviour, be it in the drawing rooms of London high society or the trenches of World War I.' - BBC RADIO 4 PROGRAMMES, 2011. [ - Stories from this book were selected for AFTERNOON READING programmes on BBC Radio 4 during 2011.] ' - in England, my first trip there in 25 years - I bought the new Phaeton collection of 'Extremely Entertaining Short Stories' by Stacy Aumonier - Back now in New York, it's a heavy volume to cart back and forth as subway reading, but it's well worth the weight!' - Margaret Heilbrun, LIBRARY JOURNAL, NEW YORK, 2009. ' - a very elegant volume - short stories that invite comparison with those of Saki, O.Henry and even Guy de Maupassant.' - BOOKS IRELAND. ' - a great holiday read.' - BRENTANO'S, PARIS. 'Forgotten Author, Stacy Aumonier - , like O.Henry and Saki, could condense a life into a few pages. - In the 1920s, he became unrivalled as a short story writer. - Perfect with a hot toddy on a cold night.' - Christopher Fowler, THE INDEPENDENT, London, 2011. 'Stacy Aumonier is one of the best short story writers of all time. His humour is sly and dry and frequent - And can't he write!' - John Galsworthy (winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature). 'I think his very best works ought to be included in any anthology of the best short stories ever written.' - James Hilton (author of 'Goodbye Mr Chips,' and 'Lost Horizon'), 1939.

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