Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2017  Vol. 16 No. 2
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Introducing Taylor’s “The Oracle at Stoneleigh Court

  The Oracle at Stoneleigh Court I
  The Oracle at Stoneleigh Court II

In the summer of 1992, New Virginia Review first published Peter Taylor’s novella, “The Oracle at Stoneleigh Court,” and in 1993 Knopf presented the piece as the title story in what was the last collection of stories to appear in Taylor’s lifetime. Blackbird subsequently republished the story in v7n1 in the spring of 2008 as a part of a reading loop dedicated to Taylor’s work, which included texts from a 2007 AWP panel, “Peter Taylor and the Lost World of the Modern.”

We are offering the story here again to celebrate the fall 2017 publication in two volumes of the Library of America’s edition of Peter Taylor: Complete Stories, edited and introduced by Ann Beattie.

Peter Taylor, Complete Stories, 1960-1992  

The Library of America committed to presenting the book in the spring of 2016, spurred on by support from Beattie, Robert Wilson (editor of The American Scholar and a former student of Taylor’s), and Phillip Lopate.

Beattie had been a colleague and friend of Taylor at the University of Virginia beginning in the mid-1970’s, and her advocacy is in large part responsible for the stories’ appearance in the Library of America series. That series, according to its mission statement, “helps to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping in print, authoritative editions of America’s best and most significant writing.”

“The Oracle at Stoneleigh Court” came to New Virginia Review when editor Mary Flinn requested a submission of work from Taylor, and he graciously made the story available.

Taylor was a complicated and accomplished writer of short fiction whose work Blackbird is honored to support.

In the first paragraph of her introduction to the book, Beattie notes:

Matthew Hillsman Taylor Jr., nicknamed Pete, decided early to become simply Peter Taylor. The name has a certain directness, as well as a hint of elegance. Both qualities were also true of his writing, though his directness was reserved for energizing inanimate objects, as well as for presenting physical details. (His sidelong psychological studies, on the other hand, take time to unfold.) It was also his tendency to situate his characters within precisely rendered historical and social settings. His stories deepen, brushstroke by brushstroke, by gradual layering—by the verbal equivalent to what painters call atmospheric perspective. Their surfaces are no more to be trusted than the first ice on a lake.


We invite you to reenter here “The Oracle of Stoneleigh Court” and to go to the Library of America to immerse yourself in the work of a true American master.  

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