Best New American Voices 2001

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A marvelous collection of fiction by America's best new writers.

Upon its launch in 2000, Best New American Voices received acclaim for the range and originality of its selections, which represented the best writing from new American writers who are generally unknown but promise to become the literary stars of tomorrow. For the 2001 edition, National Book Award finalist Charles Baxter, together with series editors John Kulka and Natalie Danford, judged short stories from more ...

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Overview

A marvelous collection of fiction by America's best new writers.

Upon its launch in 2000, Best New American Voices received acclaim for the range and originality of its selections, which represented the best writing from new American writers who are generally unknown but promise to become the literary stars of tomorrow. For the 2001 edition, National Book Award finalist Charles Baxter, together with series editors John Kulka and Natalie Danford, judged short stories from more than one hundred writing programs around the country to find the very best, most interesting, and most accomplished pieces by outstanding writing students. The result is presented here in a collection of seventeen tales that will be sure to attract attention and critical acclaim. Ranging from stories of passion, loneliness, and humor to masterful accounts of discovery and family politics, and set in locales from Burma and Japan to the Middle West and New England, these tales are eclectic, vivid, and cutting-edge, and showcase the best writing talent of tomorrow.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
PRAISE FOR BEST NEW AMERICAN VOICES 2000

In terms of energy, passion, artistry, and intellect, this collection is a winner . . . It is a daring collection that is well worth our attention."
Review of Contemporary Fiction

Both the imperatives of multiculturalism and a proliferation of genuine literary talent have stimulated a contemporary plethora of story anthologies. This lively volume is one of the best of them."—Kirkus Reviews (starred)

Publishers Weekly
Of the making of short story anthologies there is no end. Started in 2000, the Best New American Voices distinguishes itself from the Pushcart and O. Henry prizes by soliciting unpublished work from graduate writing programs and arts organizations. This year, guest editor Baxter has selected 17 stories, each testifying to his taste for clarity and eclectic settings. Christina Milletti's "Villa of the Veiled Lady" is in the Jamesian tradition, with the protagonist, Alice, who visits off-limits sites in Herculaneum with a strange Italian man, recognizably in the line of Daisy Miller. Kira Salak tells a different kind of travel story in "Beheadings," which recounts a journalist's visit to Cambodia. David, a psychologically troubled young man, has fled to a Buddhist monastery in that apparently godforsaken country. Chris, the journalist and David's sister, makes it her mission to bring her brother home before her mother dies. Antoine Wilson's "Home, James, and Don't Spare the Horses" is a funny putdown of the art scene. Graham Witt, the narrator, becomes a bad boy artist quite by accident when he exhibits his photographs at Russ Matsumura's gallery. The electricity is turned off on the day of the exhibit, because Russ, on principle, doesn't pay bills, and Graham's artistic cred is established. When he goes to a party thrown by Maurine Perrin, an ineffably weird collector, Maurice encourages him to act like a boor, making his reputation soar even higher. Erin Flanagan's "Intervention," in which Kate comes home with her lover, Harry, to help Harry's mother, Judith, confront Harry's father about his drinking, strikes a bittersweet comic note. These stories give us a snapshot of an America (or atleast its writing programs) that has become more globally conscious. (Nov.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
KLIATT
The selections here were culled from arts organizations, summer writing conferences, community workshops, and graduate creative writing programs throughout the United States. Each of the 17 pieces of short fiction in this anthology is challenging to the reader, and artfully crafted. None of the stories pander to the reader, or tell a dry, stale expected tale. The writing is new, fresh, and vibrant. The breadth of subject matter found in these stories is amazing. In "Oh Albany, My Love," by Jeb Livingwood, the main characters are a loving gay couple who are squabbling over one person's chosen career. In "Superassassin," by Lysley A. Tenorio, the reader sees the world through the eyes of a lonely young man obsessed with comic books. Julie Orringer's astounding story, "Thanksgiving," is told through Ella, a little girl attending a Thanksgiving dinner where the events become dark, bewildering and tragic. The array of different tales, and of unique writing styles, found in this collection is impressive. It should be noted that Best New American Voices 2001 pulls no punches—there are no "easy" or predictable endings to these stories. Some stories do involve violence or sexual situations, but all the stories are excellently crafted, and the level of artistry is very high. My only disappointment with this collection is that the short stories chosen all came from creative writing graduate programs, or former students of graduate programs. The previous, inaugural edition of this series had stories from a wider range of sources, including the PEN Prison Writers. If this series is to continue to highlight new American voices, I feel that those voices should ring out from many different writingprograms. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2001, Harcourt, Harvest, 368p.,
— Janice Bees
Library Journal
The stories in this second annual selection come from writers' workshops and graduate writing programs across the country. Guest editor Baxter points out that he was struck by the stories' frequent clash of cultures (in every sense, including ethnic, sexual, and social class) and how topics such as globalization and homosexuality were taken for granted by these emerging writers. Thus, both Zoey Byrd's "Of Cabbages" and Roompa Bhattacharyya's "Loss" are about young widows confronting an unfamiliar culture, though in very different ways, and Kira Salak's "Beheadings" tells of a dangerous journey into Cambodia that evolves into a quest for resolution and inner peace. Though some stories fall victim to the immature writer's sins of overwriting or sensationalism, most are compelling, and many of these authors are likely to become familiar names. For larger fiction collections. Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780156010658
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 11/2/2001
  • Series: Best New American Voices Series
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.34 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Baxter is the author of seven books including the 2000 National Book Award finalist The Feast of Love. He teaches at the University of Michigan.

John Kulka is executive editor-at-large at Harvard University Press and lives in Connecticut.

Natalie Danford is a freelance writer and book critic whose work has appeared in People, Salon, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Sun-Times, and many other publications. She is the author of a novel, Inheritance, and lives in New York City.

Biography

Although his body of work includes poetry and essays, award-winning writer Charles Baxter is best known for his fiction -- brilliantly crafted, non-linear stories that twist and turn in unexpected directions before reaching surprising yet nearly always satisfying conclusions. He specializes in portraits of solid Midwesterners, regular Joes and Janes whose ordinary lives are disrupted by accidents, chance encounters, and the arrival of strangers; and his books have garnered a fierce and loyal following among readers and critics alike.

Born in Minneapolis in 1947, Baxter was barely a toddler when his father died. His mother remarried a wealthy attorney who moved the family onto a sprawling estate in suburban Excelsior. From prep school, Baxter was expected to attend Williams, but instead he chose Macalester, a small, liberal arts college in St. Paul. Intending to pursue a career in teaching and writing, he enrolled in the Ph.D. program at the State University of New York at Buffalo, attracted by a faculty that included such literary luminaries of the day as John Barth and Donald Barthelme.

After grad school, Baxter moved to Michigan to teach at Wayne State University in Detroit. He spent more than a decade concentrating on writing poetry, but after a particularly discouraging dry spell, he decided to try his hand at fiction. He labored long and hard over three novels, none of which was accepted for publication. Then, just as he was about to give up altogether, he attempted one last trick. He whittled the three novels down to short stories, replacing epic themes, extraordinary characters, and ambitious story arcs with the small, quiet stuff of ordinary life. It was a good decision, In 1984, his first collection of short fiction, Harmony of the World, was published. Another anthology followed, then a debut novel. Published in 1987, First Light charmed readers with its unusual structure (the story unfolds backwards in time) and a cast of richly, draw, fully human characters.

Baxter continued to publish throughout the 1990s, alternating between short and full-length fiction, and with each book he garnered larger, more appreciative audiences and better reviews. His breakthrough occurred in 2000 with Feast of Love, a novel composed of many small stories that form a single, cohesive narrative. Described by The New York Times as "...rich, juicy, laugh-out-loud funny and completely engrossing," Feast of Love was nominated for a National Book Award.

"Every time I've finished a book, it feels to me as if the washrag has been rung out," Baxter confessed in a 2003 interview. Yet he keeps on crafting absorbing stories infused with quiet (sometimes absurdist) wit and a compassionate understanding of the human condition. A longtime director of the creative writing program at the University of Michigan, he is known as a generous mentor, and several of his students have gone on to forge successful literary careers of their own.

Good To Know

In our exclusive interview, Baxter shared some fascinating insights with us:

"My novels are sometimes criticized for being episodic, or structurally weird. And they are! I like them that way. It's fairly late in the day -- 2003 as I write -- in the history of the novel, and I think it's fair for writers to mess around with that form, and to stop thinking that they have to write books that move smoothly from the first act to the second act, and then to the climax and the denouement. I like digressions, asides, intrusions, advice, anything that gets in the way of a smooth narcotic flow. New novels should not look like old novels, except when they want to."

"My father died when I was eighteen months old, and I expect the unexpected to happen in life and in art, and my fiction is full, or loaded down, with unexpected fatalities of one kind or another. For me, that's realism."

"I had an unhappy childhood that I thought was happy, and I dove into books as inspiration and relief and comfort and security and information about what people did and how they thought. I can still get happy and sentimental just over the thought of libraries -- the image of a woman sitting quietly and reading is a terrifically sexy image for me."

"Like many writers, I'm private and quiet and observant and bookish. For a physical outlet, I lift weights at the gym two or three times a week, and I don't quit unless and until I've worked up a fairly good sweat. Many writers need an outlet like that to counter the sedentary nature of what they do. I don't have any wild delusions about the greatness of my work: I am happy to work humbly in this field where so many writers have created so many immortal manifestations of the mind and spirit. As Henry James said, you work in the dark; you do what you can; the rest is the madness of art."

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    1. Hometown:
      Minneapolis, Minnesota
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 13, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Minneapolis, Minnesota
    1. Education:
      B. A., Macalester College, 1969; Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo, 1974
    2. Website:

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