Best of the South: From the Second Decade of New Stories from the South

Overview

Since 1986, New Stories from the South has brought the best short fiction of the year to the attention of a national audience. The series has been called “the collection others should use as a model” (the Charlotte Observer), and for twenty years it has held to that standard.

When Anne Tyler helped us celebrate the first ten years of the series in Best of the South, 1986–1995, the reviews were ecstatic. “A triumph of authentic voices and unforgettable characters,” said Southern ...

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Overview

Since 1986, New Stories from the South has brought the best short fiction of the year to the attention of a national audience. The series has been called “the collection others should use as a model” (the Charlotte Observer), and for twenty years it has held to that standard.

When Anne Tyler helped us celebrate the first ten years of the series in Best of the South, 1986–1995, the reviews were ecstatic. “A triumph of authentic voices and unforgettable characters,” said Southern Living. “An introduction to some of the best writers in the world today,” raved the Northwest Arkansas Times. Now that the anthology has reached its twentieth birthday, Anne Tyler has done it again. From the 186 stories found in the ten volumes from 1996 to 2005, she has picked her favorites and introduced them with warmth, insight, and her own brand of quiet literary authority.

Once again, her choices reflect her love of the kind of generous fiction she has called “spendthrift.”Here are twenty stories—by both famous and first-time writers, from Lee Smith and Max Steele to Gregory Sanders and Stephanie Soileau—that hold nothing back.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Culled from successive annual collections of New Stories from the South, these strong selections by novelist Anne Tyler stretch from 1996 to 2005. The winners here have jumped through several editorial hoops, from initial publication in literary journals like the New Yorker and Ploughshares, to further selection as the best Southern fiction-not an easy quality to define, admits keen-witted, no-nonsense Tyler in her introduction. Though many of the stories will be familiar to readers, they are no less pleasing. Lee Smith's masterly "The Happy Memories Club" (from the Atlantic Monthly), about a feisty nursing-home inmate determined to resist the censorship of her lifetime of memories, is one of several tales tackling head-on the sad, nearly squalid endings of cherished relatives. Some of these elders carry with them the edged legacy of racism and Confederate honor. Pam Durban's "Gravity" treats a mother's embarrassing, repetitive stories of her longtime black servant; Mamie has been dead for 14 years but still provides a beacon for the confused Charleston lady. In Gregory Sanders's "Good Witch, Bad Witch," a Houston woman on her last legs redeems herself of "compartmentalized" racism by bestowing a final largesse on the "nigra man" who takes care of her lawn. Lucia Nevai's "Faith Healer" shows Northerners getting a grand Southern reception when a divorced couple seeking a Tennessee faith healer arrive at Willie Mae's house in Pikeville-and the Pittsburgh husband's own racist views are sorely tested. Other outsiders, a family of Sudanese in Stephanie Soileau's "The Boucherie," share a cultural moment with their Louisiana neighbors when a wayward cow has to be butchered, under Muslim law.There's also plenty of hardy, run-on, vernacular storytelling, as in Clyde Edgerton's "Debra's Flap and Snap" and Max Steele's hilarious, hair-raising tale of unspeakable family secrets, "The Unripe Heart."An unblinking look at regional ills and richness that suffers from a dearth of African-American voices.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565124707
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 11/21/2005
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Anne Tyler

Shannon Ravenel has edited New Stories from the South since 1986. Formerly editorial director of Algonquin Books, she now directs her Algonquin imprint, Shannon Ravenel Books. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Anne Tyler is the author of sixteen novels, including Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, The Accidental Tourist, and her most recent, The Amateur Marriage. Her short stories have been published in the New Yorker and other magazines. Tyler’s new children’s book, Timothy Tugbottom Says No! illustrated by Mitra Modarressi, will be published in September 2005. She lives in Baltimore,Maryland.

Anne Tyler is the author of sixteen novels, including Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, The Accidental Tourist, and her most recent, The Amateur Marriage. Her short stories have been published in the New Yorker and other magazines. Tyler’s new children’s book, Timothy Tugbottom Says No! illustrated by Mitra Modarressi, will be published in September 2005. She lives in Baltimore,Maryland.

Biography

Anne Tyler has had a very active imagination all her life. When she was a young girl, she would spend an hour or two after being put to bed every night fantasizing that she was a doctor. She imagined conversations with patients, and pictured their lives as she did so, considering both their illnesses and the intricacies of their backgrounds. She constructed little mental plays around these characters that she would whisper to herself in the dark -- much to the chagrin of her brother, with whom she shared a room. "[H]e used to call out to our parents, ‘Anne's whispering again!'" she once told Barnes & Noble.com. As much as she may have vexed her brother, she also believes that these fantasies helped her to develop into the beloved, award-winning novelist she is today.

Tyler's work is characterized by a meticulous attention to detail, a genuine love of her characters, and a quirky sense of humor. Her public persona is characterized by its own quirks, as well. She refuses to grant face-to-face interviews. She has never publicly read from any of her books. She does not do book signings or tours. All of this has lent a certain mystique to her novels, although Tyler has said that her reluctance to become a public figure status is actually the result of simple shyness, not to mention her desire for her writing to speak for itself. Fortunately, Anne Tyler's work speaks with a clear, fully-realized voice that does not require unnecessary elucidation by the writer.

Tyler published her first novel If Morning Ever Comes in 1964, and that singular voice was already in place. This astute debut that tracks the self-realization of a young man named Ben Joe Hawkins displayed Tyler's characteristic wit and gentle eccentricity right off the bat. Harper's declared the novel "a triumph," and Tyler was on her way to creating an impressive catalog of novels chronicling the every day hopes, fears, dreams, failures, and victories of small-town Americans. Having come of age, herself, in rural North Carolina, Tyler had particular insight into the lives of her characters. Each novel was a little shimmering gem, winning her a devoted following and public accolades that more than compensated for her refusal to appear in public. Her novel Earthly Possessions, the story of a housewife who is taken hostage by a young man during a bank robbery, was released the same year she won an award for "literary excellence and promise of important work to come" from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. The book also went on to become a television movie starring Susan Sarandon and Stephen Dorff in 1999.

However, the most well-known adaptation of one of Tyler's novels arrived more than a decade earlier when The Accidental Tourist was made into an Academy Award winning film starring Geena Davis and William Hurt. Consequently, The Accidental Tourist is viewed by some as Tyler's signature novel, covering many of the writer's favorite themes: the push and pull of marriage, the appearance of a romantic eccentric, personal tragedy, and the quest to escape from the drudgery of routine. The Accidental Tourist won the National Book Critics Circle Award and hit number one on The New York Times Bestseller list.

Three years later, Tyler received the Pulitzer Prize for Breathing Lessons, which further explored themes of marriage and self-examination. Despite having won the prestigious Pulitzer, Tyler still refused to allow herself to be drawn into the spotlight. Quietly, contemplatively, she chose to continue publishing a sequence of uniformly fine novels, including Saint Maybe, Ladder of Years, and The Amateur Marriage.

Anne Tyler's novel Digging to America reexamines many of her chief obsessions, while also possibly drawing upon a personal triumph -- her marriage to Iranian psychiatrist and novelist Taghi Mohammad Modarressi -- and the tragedy of his death in 1997. Digging to America follows the relationship between two families, the Iranian Yazdans and the all-American Donaldsons, as they become closer and closer and affect each other deeper and deeper over a succession of years. Digging to America is arguably Tyler's deepest and most profound work to date. It also delivers more of her peculiar brand of humor, which will surely please her longtime fans, thrilled that she continues spinning tales with the trademark attention to character that has distinguished her stories ever since she was a little girl, whispering to herself in the dark. Tyler may have decided to remain in the dark and out of the public eye, but the stories she has to tell have shed more than their share of light on the lives of her readers.

Good To Know

Tyler first began writing stories at the innocent age of seven. At the time, most of her yarns involved, as she has said, "lucky, lucky girls who got to go west in covered wagons."

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    1. Hometown:
      Baltimore, Maryland
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 25, 1941
    2. Place of Birth:
      Minneapolis, Minnesota
    1. Education:
      B.A., Duke University, 1961

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