Best of Times, Worst of Times: Contemporary American Short Stories from the New Gilded Age

Overview

Late twentieth and early twenty-first century America has been labeled as “The New Gilded Age,” a phrase that embodies the glitz and glamour of one of the wealthiest countries in the world but also suggests the greed, corruption, and inequalities teeming just below the surface. Identifying some of the sparkling moments of humanity interwoven between the moments of crisis, Best of Times, Worst of Times features short stories by such renowned writers as Junot Diaz, George Saunders, Jhumpa Lahiri, Tobias Wolff, and ...

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Overview

Late twentieth and early twenty-first century America has been labeled as “The New Gilded Age,” a phrase that embodies the glitz and glamour of one of the wealthiest countries in the world but also suggests the greed, corruption, and inequalities teeming just below the surface. Identifying some of the sparkling moments of humanity interwoven between the moments of crisis, Best of Times, Worst of Times features short stories by such renowned writers as Junot Diaz, George Saunders, Jhumpa Lahiri, Tobias Wolff, and many others, whose distinctive authorial voices lend urgency and a sense of heightened awareness to the modern moment. Commenting on and making sense of what is going on in America today, fractured as it is by two ongoing wars, the aftermath of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, these stories speak to some of the most germane issues confronting America today, from race relations, immigration, and social class to gender issues, Iraq, and imperialism. These expertly culled, emotionally powerful stories provide the perfect mirror with which to examine the real state of the union.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Professors Martin (The Cambridge Introduction to Emily Dickinson) and Tichi (Civic Passions) anthologize 24 stories published between 1982 and 2006 by both established and up-and-coming American authors. Though a stilted introduction and clichéd Academic groupings reduce complexity to socio-economic phenomena and political manifestations, the stories themselves provide a useful reader for American Lit and MFA writing courses. Tom Franklin's "The Ballad of Duane Juarez" tells the story of a dispossessed man whose wealthy landlord brother bids him to rid the property of cats; that this ultimately involves a pistol, and shotgun, and a trip into the woods with a borrowed Porsche makes it horrifying and funny and illustrates Franklin's greatness. The much anthologized "Shiloh" by Bobbie Ann Mason and "How to Date a Brown Girl (black girl, white girl, or halfie)" by Junot Diaz makes appearances, the latter preceding Updike's "Metamorphosis" and David Foster Wallace's "Think." Tom Bissell's lesser-known "Expensive Trips to Nowhere" anchors one section, and hilarious and harrowing stories by Bukowski, Miranda July, and Walter Mosley round out another. The stories more than fulfill the editors' promise to "chronicle an America of a second Gilded Age."
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher
“Topical yet timeless, this collection speaks tellingly and provocatively to issues prevalent in today’s world and to readers struggling to make sense of these volatile times. The expansive stories are compelling and necessary, powerful and empathetic; they reveal in equal measure the daunting possibilities, stunning successes, and abysmal failures along side the ordinary, the contradictory, and the hopeful, all at play within the imaginative realm of visionary and expert short story writers who understand the complexities of contemporary life. They have produced a much-needed, wide-ranging, valuable, and unique collection.”-Thadious M. Davis,University of Pennsylvania

Best of Times, Worst of Times is particularly powerful in the range of social and political issues it addresses through fiction; it’s a collection designed to provoke critical reading, discussion and writing. The editors provide a broad representation of current fiction from familiar names as well as up-to-the-minute offerings from new American writers; in the process, they illustrate the extraordinary range of stylistic practices that shape contemporary fiction.”-Amy Tucker,author of The Illustration of the Master: Henry James and the Magazine Revolution

"Stories by today's most captivating writers - Jhumpa Lahiri, Susan Straight, ZZ Packer, Aimee Bender and more - focus a personal lens on race relations, gender issues, Hurricane Katrina and our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."-Ms. Magazine

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814796283
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 4/4/2011
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 594,276
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Wendy Martin is Vice-Provost and George and Ronya Kozmetsky Professor of Transdisciplinary Studies and Professor of American Literature and American Studies at Claremont Graduate University. She is the author and editor of numerous books, including The Cambridge Introduction to Emily Dickinson (2007), We Are The Stories We Tell (1990), More Stories We Tell (2004), and The Art of the Short Story (2006).

Cecelia Tichi is William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of English and American Studies at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of several novels and books, including Exposés and Excess: Muckraking in America, 1900-2000 (2004), Embodiment of a Nation: Human Form in American Spaces (2001), High Lonesome: The American Culture of Country Music (1994), and Civic Passions: Seven Who Launched Progressive America (And What They Can Teach Us) (2009).

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements ix

Introduction Wendy Martin Cecelia Tichi 1

All in the Family

1 Your Mother and I Dave Eggers 11

2 The Ballad of Duane Juarez Tom Franklin 18

3 In the American Society Gish Jen 27

4 Gogol Jhumpa Lahiri 41

5 Refresh, Refresh Benjamin Percy 68

6 Smorgasbord Tobias Wolff 81

Shifting Identities

7 How to Date a Brown Girl (black girl, white girl, or halfie) Junot Díaz 97

8 In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried Amy Hempel 102

9 Metamorphosis John Updike 111

10 Think David Foster Wallace 120

Locations and Dislocations

11 Expensive Trips Nowhere Tom Bissell 125

12 Near-Extinct Birds of the Central Cordillera Ben Fountain 146

13 Shiloh Bobbie Ann Mason 168

14 Commcomm George Saunders 182

15 Mines Susan Straight 203

Across Divides

16 Skinless Aimee Bender 217

17 View from a Headlock Jonathan Lethem 226

18 Brownies ZZ Packer 248

19 Pie of the Month Jean Thompson 268

Workdays and Nightshifts

20 A Day Charles Bukowski 287

21 Scales Louise Erdrich 296

22 Something That Needs Nothing Miranda July 309

23 Equal Opportunity Walter Mosley 327

24 The Passenger Marisa Silver 341

About the Editors 357

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