Best New American Voices 2005


Julie Orringer, Adam Johnson, William Gay, David Benioff, Ana Menendez, Maile Meloy, Amanda Davis, Jennifer Vanderbes, Alix Ohlin, and John Murray: These are just some of the acclaimed writers whose early work has appeared in Best New American Voices since its launch in 2000.

The 2005 edition features a new crop of promising stories selected by novelist Francine Prose, who continues the tradition of identifying the best young writers on the cusp of their careers. With pieces ...

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Julie Orringer, Adam Johnson, William Gay, David Benioff, Ana Menendez, Maile Meloy, Amanda Davis, Jennifer Vanderbes, Alix Ohlin, and John Murray: These are just some of the acclaimed writers whose early work has appeared in Best New American Voices since its launch in 2000.

The 2005 edition features a new crop of promising stories selected by novelist Francine Prose, who continues the tradition of identifying the best young writers on the cusp of their careers. With pieces culled from hundreds of prestigious writing programs, such as the Iowa Writers' Workshop and Johns Hopkins, and from summer conferences including Sewanee and Bread Loaf-and with a complete list of contact information for these programs-this rich collection showcases tomorrow's literary stars.

A Harvest Original

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book reminds us of the range of imagination and experience informing fiction today." -Chicago Tribune (Editor's Choice)

"Demonstrates the potent force of American writers emerging from distinguished writing programs."-Elle

Publishers Weekly
"How can the written word be dead when it is being deployed with such spirit and vitality?" asks guest editor Francine Prose in her introduction to this provocative collection of 17 stories chosen from writing programs and arts organizations around the country. More realistic than experimental, the stories ricochet between themes of love and loss; the best ones give readers the feeling they're swimming across the surface of an ocean when a shiver of cold betrays the great depths that lie beneath. Frances Hwang's mournful depiction of an estranged Chinese couple stuck with a deadbeat tenant in "Garden City" is a portrait of lives consumed with regret. "The Cosmonaut" by Ian David Froeb beautifully captures the parallels between two grieving men brought together under literally cosmic circumstances. A number of the stories document cultural clashes in progress. When the exasperated Thai farmer in Rattawut Lapcharoensap's "Farangs" takes one look at the bikini-clad American tourist girl who's come to ride his elephant and asks, "What if I went to her country and rode a bald eagle in my underwear, huh?" it's clear that as the world gets smaller, the potential for conflict looms large. Other selections depict fascinating communities of Sikhs, Sri Lankans and Singaporean Chinese. If this anthology of up-and-coming writers is any indication, the prognosis for the written word is very good. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
"A welcome injection of off-beat and risk-taking stories marked by poignancy and humor. A meaningful contribution to the series."
Publishers Weekly
"If this anthology of up-and-coming writers is any indication, the prognosis for the written word is very good."
"The best of the new voices address life a far distance from academia and with distinctive language...As promised, promising voices."
Library Journal
In this fifth installment in a series featuring promising new writers, youthful alienation again provides a unifying theme. Eric Puchner's "Essay #3: Leda and the Swan" is a high school girl's awkward but amusing attempt to make sense of her love life and relationship with her sister through a paper she has written for an English class. Keith Gessen's "Like Vaclav" features a young, hockey-playing professor who forms a casual cult made up of estranged friends to help in his misguided quest for truth. Michael Lowenthal's "You Are Here," probably the most accomplished story, features a virile 27-year-old priest on a vacation cruise who privately ponders whether he can withstand a lifetime of celibacy and isolation after running into an ex-girlfriend from college. This collection benefits from a welcome injection of off-beat and risk-taking stories marked by poignancy and humor, which overshadow the more plodding and reserved ones. Altogether, this collection makes a meaningful contribution to the series; recommended for most libraries.-Kevin Greczek, Trenton Times, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Short story collections are plentiful, but high school librarians would be hard pressed to find one as appealing as this one. The 17 stories chosen by guest editor Prose include some of the finest fiction coming out of universities and writing workshops today. The central characters come from a wide range of cultural and economic backgrounds. "Full-Month Celebration" is the story of Ah Fong, a Chinese amah who is returning from Singapore to her family. Rattawut Lapcharoensap's "Farangs" revolves around the son of a Thai hotel keeper and his ambivalent relationship with a girl from the U.S. "Pine" is Hasanthika Sirisena's story of one woman's attempt to hold on to her cultural heritage as her young children are assimilated into the American traditions around them. Natalie Mudbrook, the protagonist of Eric Puchner's "Essay
Kirkus Reviews
Seventeen stories or novel excerpts, chosen by guest editor Prose from, presumably, the most talented among the nation's university writing programs. The best of the new voices here address life a far distance from academia and with distinctive language. Rattawut Lapcharoensap's "Farangs" is told from the perspective of a Thai resort owner's son: "June: the Germans come to the island . . . speaking like spitting July: the Italians, the French, the British, the Americans . . . . Americans are the fattest, the stingiest of the bunch. They may pretend to like pad thai or grilled prawns or the occasional curry, but twice a week they need their . . . hamburgers and their pizzas. They're also the worst drunks." In Frances Hwang's poignant "Garden City," a Chinese couple invest in an unrentable apartment in Queens, attracted by its gardens, and play out the tensions connected with the death of their son from cancer at 15 through the trials of renting to a woman who loses her job and then, perhaps, her mind. (This is Hwang's second appearance in a Best New American Voices anthology.) There are also more predictable stories of thwarted romance. Joshua Ferris's narrator in "More Abandon" stays at the office all night, becoming increasingly reckless. He leaves Genevieve, a female coworker, five long confessional messages, switches one woman's pig office decor for a guy's pictures of a girl, taking much too long to reach its conclusion that "Maybe he wants to be fired. The only cure to loving Genevieve." In "Dog Children," by Tamara Guirado, Maggie tries to save her relationship with Avashai (formerly Donny, her Irish/Cherokee lover) by watching porn with him in her barn apartment near Seattle: " . .. they could hear the soft nickering of the neighbor's horses while on the television screen, a small blond woman in a red neckerchief straddled the supine body of Long Dong Silver." And Rebecca Barry, in "Snow Fever," superbly captures a barroom's pseudo intimacy. As promised, promising voices.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780156028998
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/4/2004
  • Series: Best New American Voices Series
  • Pages: 402
  • Sales rank: 1,231,996
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

Francine Prose

Francine Prose is the award-winning author of a dozen works of fiction. She is a director's fellow at the Center for Scholars and Writers and lives in New York City.

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.


When it comes to an author as eclectic as Francine Prose, it's difficult to find the unifying thread in her work. But, if one were to examine her entire oeuvre—from novels and short stories to essays and criticism—a love of reading would seem to be the animating force. That may not seem extraordinary, especially for a writer, but Prose is uncommonly passionate about the link between reading and writing. "I've always read," she confessed in a 1998 interview with Atlantic Unbound. "I started when I was four years old and just didn't stop…The only reason I wanted to be a writer was because I was such an avid reader." (In 2006, she produced an entire book on the subject—a nuts-and-bolts primer entitled Reading Like a Writer, in which she uses excerpts from classic and contemporary literature to illustrate her personal notions of literary excellence.)

If Prose is specific about the kind of writing she, herself, likes to read, she's equally voluble about what puts her off. She is particularly vexed by "obvious, tired clich├ęs; lazy, ungrammatical writing; implausible plot turns." Unsurprisingly, all of these are notably absent in her own work. Even when she explores tried-and-true literary conventions—such as the illicit romantic relationship at the heart of her best known novel, Blue Angel—she livens them with wit and irony. She even borrowed her title from the famous Josef von Sternberg film dealing with a similar subject.

As biting and clever as she is, Prose cringes whenever her work is referred to as satire. She explained to Barnes &, "Satirical to me means one-dimensional characters…whereas, I think of myself as a novelist who happens to be funny—who's writing characters that are as rounded and artfully developed as the writers of tragic novels."

Prose's assessment of her own work is pretty accurate. Although her subject matter is often ripe for satire (religious fanaticism in Household Saints, tabloid journalism in Bigfoot Dreams, upper-class pretensions in Primitive People), etc.), she takes care to invest her characters with humanity and approaches them with respect. "I really do love my characters," she says, "but I feel that I want to take a very hard look at them. I don't find them guilty of anything I'm not guilty of myself."

Best known for her fiction, Prose has also written literary criticism for The New York Times, art criticism for The Wall Street Journal, and children's books based on Jewish folklore, all of it infused with her alchemic blend of humor, insight,and intelligence.

Good To Know

Prose rarely wastes an idea. In Blue Angel, the novel that the character Angela is writing is actually a discarded novel that Prose started before stopping because, in her own words, "it seemed so juvenile to me."

While she once had no problem slamming a book in one of her literary critiques, these days Prose has resolved to only review books that she actually likes. The ones that don't adhere to her high standards are simply returned to the senders.

Prose's novel Household Saints was adapted into an excellent film starring Tracey Ullman, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Lili Taylor in 1993.

Another novel, The Glorious Ones, was adapted into a musical.

In 2002, Prose published The Lives of the Muses, an intriguing hybrid of biography, philosophy, and gender studies that examines nine women who inspired famous artists and thinkers—from John Lennon's wife Yoko Ono to Alice Liddell, the child who enchanted Lewis Carroll.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 1, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Radcliffe College, 1968

Table of Contents

Introduction by Francine Prose

The Golden Horde of Mississippi by Charley Henley
Garden City by Frances Hwang
Essay #3: Leda and the Swan by Eric Puchner
Full-Month Celebration by E. V. Slate
Like Vaclav by Keith Gessen
Farangs by Rattawut Lapcharoensap
More Abandon by Joshua Ferris
Rosie by Vivek Narayanan
Silent Sky by Lachlan Smith
Pine by Hasanthika Sirisena
Brides by Aryn Kyle
You Are Here by Michael Lowenthal
Sangeet by Bhira Backhaus
Creatures of a Day by Matthew Purdy
Dog Children by Tamara Guirado
The Cosmonaut by Ian David Froeb
Snow Fever by Rebecca Barry

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