The Best American Short Stories 2009

( 7 )


Edited by critically acclaimed, best-selling author Alice Sebold, the stories in this year's collection serve as a provacative literary "antenna for what is going on in the world" (Chicago Tribune). The collection boasts great variety from "famous to first-timers, sifted from major magazines and little reviews, grand and little worlds" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), ensuring yet another rewarding, eduring edition of the oldest and best-selling Best American.

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Edited by critically acclaimed, best-selling author Alice Sebold, the stories in this year's collection serve as a provacative literary "antenna for what is going on in the world" (Chicago Tribune). The collection boasts great variety from "famous to first-timers, sifted from major magazines and little reviews, grand and little worlds" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), ensuring yet another rewarding, eduring edition of the oldest and best-selling Best American.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
This year's edition of the well-known anthology engages the world. Selections by Sebold (The Almost Moon, 2007, etc.) tend to grapple with the issues of the day, rather than concerning themselves primarily with the formalistic edicts of academic programs. "Each of these twenty stories is risky in its own way," comments series editor Pitlor in her foreword. Many of the entries, she continues, "demonstrate the human ability to endure crises and to regenerate afterward." Two fictions inspired by the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina couldn't be more different. "Rubiaux Rising" is the shortest piece here (eight pages) and one of the most powerful. Compressed details deliver a visceral jolt in Steve De Jarnatt's narrative about an Iraq veteran, addicted to pain killers since he lost an arm and a leg to an IED, who has been locked in an attic by his mother to detox when Katrina (never mentioned) strikes. It's the first story the author ever submitted for publication, one of the discoveries that makes this series so valuable. The 40-page "Hurricanes Anonymous" by Adam Johnson is the volume's longest piece and one of its richest, detailing connections made and lost in the emotional aftermath of two Louisiana storms. "Rubiaux" did not need to be a syllable longer; "Hurricanes" could have sustained the reader's interest for many more pages. Other tales concern war, past as well as present, and foreign affairs. Another contributor being published for the first time is Zambia-born Namwali Serpell ("Muzungu"); the usual roster of familiar names includes Jill McCorkle, Richard Powers and Annie Proulx; and the collection features multiple selections from such reliably discerning publications as the NewYorker (four) and Tin House (three). As worthwhile as ever-any reader will discover some new favorites here.\
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618792252
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/8/2009
  • Series: Best American Short Stories Series
  • Pages: 347
  • Sales rank: 803,643
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Alice Sebold

HEIDI PITLOR is a former senior editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and has been the series editor for The Best American Short Stories since 2007. She is the author of The Birthdays and a forthcoming novel titled The Daylight Marriage.


As Alice Sebold relates in her chilling memoir Lucky, she was considered fortunate for surviving a violent, devastating rape in her freshman year at Syracuse University. The woman before her had not been so "lucky": she was murdered and dismembered.

The shadow of this fact survives in Sebold's acclaimed bestseller The Lovely Bones, which is narrated by another not-so-lucky victim from beyond the grave. It's such a maudlin premise that the book shouldn't have been successful—in fact, Sebold's editor has told the author that the manuscript never would have been bought if she had been told what it was about before reading it.

But in her ability to convey the brutal details of crime and its aftermath—both the imagined instance and the real—Sebold proved herself a gripping writer. In a style that is straightforward but more than reportorial, she projected in The Lovely Bones the pitch-perfect voice of a dead 14-year-old girl who, from her vantage point in heaven, remains engaged with life on earth. The book was a sensation and appeared on most "best books" lists for 2002.

Five years later, Sebold produced The Almost Moon, the chilling tale of a woman driven by circumstances to commit an unspeakable act. The novel begins with one of the most arresting first lines in recent memory: "When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily."

Good To Know

Sebold is married to author Glen David Gold, author of Carter Beats the Devil. The two met when Sebold was in the fiction writing program at University of California, Irvine.

Part of the aftermath of Sebold's traumatic rape in college was a long period of self-abuse, including heroin addiction. After a hard trial in New York trying (and failing) to get published, Sebold decided to leave the city and ultimately applied to grad school at Irvine. ''I couldn't handle the rejection and the failure anymore…and the 'almost' of it all,'' she told Entertainment Weekly. ''Everybody from New York has their almost-but-not-quite story, and I just felt like I don't want to be walking around on the planet trotting out mine.''

Sebold says that her continued failures ended up creating a good mindset for her writing. "After a while, you don't think what can't be done and what can be done, because no one's going to care anyway," she said in an Associated Press interview. "You just go and have fun in your room, which is what, to me, art should be about anyway."

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    1. Hometown:
      Long Beach, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 6, 1963
    2. Place of Birth:
      Madison, Wisconsin
    1. Education:
      B.A., Syracuse University; studied poetry, University of Houston, 1984-85; M.F.A. in fiction, UC-Irvine, 1998

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2010


    I found the collection of stories incredibly odd. I thought some stories were completely unfinished and others left me wondering what in the heck just happened. I don't think I will ever buy anything like this again without reading a couple of the stories first to figure out what the Editor putting this together is trying to accomplish. Alice Sebold states at the beginning of the book that these stories push the envelope. I found them completely weird!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 10, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Decent collection of short fiction

    "The Best American Short Stories" is, as they proudly like to point out on the cover, "best, first and best selling" collection of short stories published in the US over the preceding year. The second of these claims is of course entirely subjective, but there is no doubt that this series is one of the most respected and widely used anthologies of contemporary American short fiction. These anthologies give a snapshot of current trends in fiction writing, and are, for better or worse, representative of the writing styles and themes in this genre. The upside is that the stories that are collected here are without exception all written extremely well. On the other hand, sometimes the most interesting and original stories tend to be a bit rough on the edges and not too polished. Such stories almost never make it into a collection such as this one. In the recent years these collections tended to be predominantly filled with the "workshop-style" writing. The exception seemed to be last year's collection, The Best American Short Stories 2008. This collection was so far the only one where I felt that every single story was really, really good. I was hoping that maybe the series had permanently turned a new leaf, but based on this year's collection this doesn't seem to be entirely true.

    By and large, most of the stories in this collection are really good and interesting. This last point should not, unfortunately, be taken for granted any more when the quality of writing is judged these days. Oftentimes utterly mind numbingly boring stories are praised for their supposed literary merits, and several of those had made it into this collection. For some reason, most of the more boring stories happen to be the longer ones as well, which makes their reading quite tortuous. However, there are many good stories in this collection and their reading was quite rewarding. I will probably continue to read these collections in the upcoming years, and just take what I can get from them. At this point I've probably learned my lesson and I won't expect too much beyond impeccably crafted prose.

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  • Posted April 18, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    They ARE among the BEST!

    I read every yearly edition of these short stories.... many of them become etched in my mind... just good reading!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2010

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    Posted March 3, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2011

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    Posted September 6, 2010

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