The play Art offers a close look at the value of friendship and art. Old friends Marc, Serge and Yvan find their 15 year relationship on shaky ground after Serge spends a small fortune on a piece of contemporary art. The painting is simply a white canvas, which upsets Marc. Stuck in the middle, Yvan seems to take both Serge's and Marc's side, which makes the situation worse. Soon, the disagreement shifts from being about the value of the painting to the value of their friendship as a whole.
Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is the story of Hank Morgan, firearms manufacturing superintendent at a factory in Connecticut, and his transportation through time and space to the realm of King Arthur. Stranded in time for unknown reasons, Morgan quickly uses his technical proficiency to begin building a name for himself and to right perceived social wrongs. Twain's novel is an exploration of medieval society and the roles of technology and morality in war.
A Hunger Artist is a retrospective narrative concerned with ascetics who fast as a form of gathering acclaim. These hunger artists are widely renowned in the narrative's past, but have fallen out of favor in its present. The protagonist, a melancholic artist, bemoans the decline of his field as he is shunted steadily lower and lower in society before dying alone and unhappy. The story has been variously interpreted as an indictment of capitalism and as a rebuke of ascetic religion.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is the story of young Stephen Daedalus as he grows up in Ireland, dealing with matters of religion, family, national politics, and sexuality while realizing his own ambitions as a writer. The story is told as a fluid stream of episodes, alternating between moments of victory and loss, culminating in the decision to leave his past, and Ireland, ultimately behind him. In writing Portrait, Joyce draws much from his personal life, lending the story an additional layer of psychological weight.
A Simple Heart is the story of Felicite, a simple French maid with a seemingly bottomless capacity for giving and bestowing love and kindness. While people around her continually exploit and belittle her for her simple ways and lack of education, Felicite does not succumb to negative feelings. Instead she carries on with her life as a maid and nanny, eventually dying of old age and virtually unnoticed by her employers or her charges.
An Artist of the Floating World is the story of Masuji Ono, an elderly painter reflecting on his life as a young man in Japan's decadent artistic world and on his decline since World War II. Ono's narration is unreliable and his self-image largely built up by denial, so his version of events is often shaky at best. Ono's revelation that he was a police informant on his fellow artists during World War II seals his faltering reputation.
Bartleby the Scrivener is the story of an aging Wall Street lawyer who must hire a third scrivener to deal with an increase in business. Bartleby, the scrivener hired toward this end, is at first extremely skilled and productive. He slowly retreats from work, though, using the phrase "I would prefer not to" as a stock refusal when entreated to perform a task. Bartleby drives the lawyer near to despair before finally being arrested for vagrancy and dying in prison of self-imposed starvation.