Edited by the award-winning, best-selling author Richard Russo, this year's collection boasts a satisfying "chorus of twenty stories that are by turns playful, ironic, somber, and meditative" (Wall Street Journal). With the masterful Russo picking the best of the best, America's oldest and best-selling story anthology is sure to be of "enduring quality" (Chicago Tribune) this year.
Lots of ironic and unsuspecting endings in this year's collection, lots of talented authors who know how to write stories that suck you in.
The quote of the entire book is in the story, "Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events" by Kevin Moffett.
"Talent realizes its limitations and gives up while incompetence keeps plugging away..."
I love it, because it is so true.
An interesting note is that a couple of the stories this year are about climate change in the near future and how it affects people.
If you love short stories or if you would like a sampling of great stories, this is the book. Also interesting is that there is a little bio on each author and the author says a little something about their story.
I rate the book 3.5 stars out of 4. I've bought it every year since the mid 1980's and I've loved them all.
In his magnificent introduction, Russo discusses the purpose of literature. He writes, “The writer’s real job is not to court the affection of readers but to force them to confront hard truths” (xv). Furthermore, the artist “desires to show people a good time” and “comes to us bearing a gift he hopes will please us.” The writer “starts out making the thing for himself, perhaps, but at some point …realizes he [or she] wants to share it, which is why [an author] spends long hours reshaping the thing, lovingly honing its details in the hopes it will please us, that it will be a gift worth the giving and the receiving” (xv).
He goes on to say that writers and readers understand “how wonderful it is to lose the “self” in a story so that … for a time, the reader’s life, troubles … none of it matters” (xv).
These twenty stories fulfill that mission splendidly. The finest magazines publishing fiction today are well represented: The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Tin House, The Paris Review, and Ploughshares among others.
Some well-known authors, but just as many gems by new and young writers have found their way into this prestigious collection. Charles Baxter, author of Feast of Love, Jennifer Egan, author of the critically acclaimed Visit from the Goon Squad, Jill McCorkle, who write, Going Away Shoes, and Téa Obrecht, who wrote The Tiger’s Wife. Most of the authors in the volume teach at some of the finest writing programs in America today.
The advantage of this series comes in the form of exposure to the reader of many new and established writers in a wide variety of styles.
As an example, my favorite story from the collection is “The Cousins,” by Charles Baxter. Baxter received the Award of Merit for the Short Story by the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2007. In the story, Brantford is the ne’er-do-well younger cousin of Benjamin, or “Bunny” as Brantford calls him. Like all of Baxter’s work, the prose is sparkling and wonderfully phrased. Benjamin, the narrator, travels from party to party and from one relative’s house to another. He engages people in conversations which usually end badly. He approaches a “famous poet” but cannot ask him about his play. Benjamin pontificates about Yeats and Eliot, and the poet interrupts him with a vulgar insult as if from an “Old Testament style prophet” (49). This conflict between writer and reader hangs like a shadow over Benjamin.
The volume concludes with a handy list of U.S. and Canadian magazines publishing short stories. This annual series is a real treasure for anyone who loves the art of the short story. 5 stars
My other favorites were Steve Almond's "Donkey Greedy, Donkey Gets Punched," Marlin Barton's "Into Silence," Lori Ostlund's "All Boy," Ron Rash's "The Ascent," Jim Shepherd's "The Netherlands Lives Under Water" and Maggie Shipstead's "The Cowboy Tango," reminiscent of Proulx. (Someone publish a book by this writer!)
I was also impressed by Egan, Ferris and Obrecht, rising stars I hadn't read before.
Sorry to pick on anyone, but I didn't like Brendan Matthews's "Lion Tamer" story, which I think is being overpraised. It's cute but gimmicky and has no character development, just types. You know how it will play out from the first page. I was also disappointed in Charles Baxter's story, though I normally love Baxter, and I thought Wells Tower's story was an empty exercise, and I've read much better stories by him.
Anyone have any tips from the backlist of further recommended stories? I'm eager to try more.