New Stories from the South, The Year's Best 2002

New Stories from the South, The Year's Best 2002

by Shannon Ravenel

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As Larry Brown explains in this year's preface, This is all that I have, this land called North Mississippi, home of my father, and grand-fathers, and great-grandfathers, and luckily for me, it turns out to be always enough. It's that land and everything around it-the intractable clay soil, the twisting rivers, the air heavy with humidity-that makes the South a

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As Larry Brown explains in this year's preface, This is all that I have, this land called North Mississippi, home of my father, and grand-fathers, and great-grandfathers, and luckily for me, it turns out to be always enough. It's that land and everything around it-the intractable clay soil, the twisting rivers, the air heavy with humidity-that makes the South a character in its own right, and that permeates this year's collection.

The stories in the seventeenth volume of New Stories from the South begin with the land or the water or the weather, but it's their depth and richness that take us somewhere altogether new-the South, seen from a wholly new perspective, as if for the first time. From the mountains of Tennessee to the suburbs of New Orleans to a hollowed-out antebellum house to the center of Texas, this year's New Stories from the South turns out to be always enough.

Nineteen writers make their mark in this year's volume: Dwight Allen, Russell Banks, Brad Barkley, Doris Betts, William Gay, Aaron Gwyn, Ingrid Hill, David Koon, Andrea Lee, Romulus Linney, Corey Mesler, Lucia Nevai, Julie Orringer, Dulane Upshaw Ponder, Bill Roorbach, George Singleton, Kate Small, R. T. Smith, and Max Steele.

Each story is followed by the author's notes about its origin. Readers will also find an updated list of the magazines consulted by Ravenel and a complete list of all the stories selected each year since the series' inception in 1986.

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Editorial Reviews

Mississippi Northeas Daily Journal
When it comes to reading, it just flat-out doesn't get much better than �New Stories from the South.
St. Petersburg Times
Put this 15th anniversary volume on your nightstand or coffee table to savor its contents at will. Shannon Ravenel continues her tradition of harvesting quality stories.
Arkansas Times
One of the most prestigious of the annual fiction anthologies.
The New Yorker
Allen writes about an apparently ordinary life with such pleasing, perceptive assurance that it becomes revelatory.
John Flesher
These stories about life...about people who could live anywhere but are firmly rooted in the soil of America's forever fascinating South.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As quoted by Ellen Douglas in her preface to the 15th anthology in this consistently strong series, a neighbor of Flannery O'Connor once said, "Them stories just gone and shown you how some folks would do." The 20 short narratives collected here are best enjoyed in the same spirit, as mesmerizing snippets from lonely, often strange, people's lives. "He's at the Office," by Allan Gurganus, is the best of an impressive bunch. In Gurganus's intense, tightly composed tale, narrator R. Richard Markham Jr. discovers that Dick Sr.'s workaholism covers up a more serious sickness and ingeniously preserves what's left of his ailing father's selective memory. Memory is also the theme of R.H.W. Dillard's "Forgetting the End of the World," which is postscripted with a wink from the author: "I do not remember having written this story." Cathy Day's imaginative contribution, "The Circus House," is set at the turn of the 20th century in Peru, Ind., where "Mrs. Colonel" Ford is the genteel, self-described "First Lady" of the Great Porter Circus & Sideshow Menagerie. Her husband manages their marriage with the same practiced logic he brings to his traveling enterprise, leading Mrs. Colonel Ford to swallow her pride and chase after a younger man. "Sheep," the story of a death row inmate told from the inmate's own perspective, is Thomas H. McNeely's accomplished debut. Another young writer, Christopher Miner, introduces a self-righteous home wrecker in "Rhonda and Her Children," a wicked satire. Both Mary Helen Stefaniak ("A Note to Biographers Regarding Famous Author Flannery O'Connor") and Margo Rabb ("How to Tell a Story") use real-life experiences--Stefaniak's mother and aunts went to school with O'Connor, and Rabb's parents were killed in a plane crash--as their respective foundations for witty and tender stories. Polished works by Tony Earley, Tim Gautreaux, A. Manette Ansay, Robert Olen Butler, Clyde Edgerton, Melanie Sumner and Wendy Brenner round out this diverse and compelling collection. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
As Southern as Spanish moss on the bayou and the smell of sweet potato pie at a church picnic, this collection exemplifies the Southern experience. Editor Ravenel's 14th year of collecting the best Southern short stories proves to be an enjoyable read, placing this newest compilation in respectable company with previous editions. Veteran writers such as Lee Smith and Robert Olen Butler bring humor and insight to the mix, while newcomers like Marc Vassallo and Rhian Margaret Ellis offer realism and sadness brought on by family secrets and betrayals. Love with a space alien invades an Alabama town. Writer's block torments a native Southerner in the Big Apple. From the absurd to the ordinary, this anthology is a respectable body of witticisms, reminiscences, and observances propelled by a common Southern undercurrent. The healthiest of lives here encompass various aspects of pain, loss, joy, renewal, celebration, contentment, and serenity. Ravenel has gathered a healthy sampling of the human experience south of the Mason-Dixon line.Shannon Williams Haddock, Bellsouth Corporate Lib. & Business Research Ctr., Birmingham, Ala.
Kirkus Reviews
Several excitingly original stories from new and recently emergent writers make this now-venerable annual a must for readers who mean to keep up with contemporary short fiction. The volume gets off to a rocky start with novelist Larry Brown's meandering, pointless preface (which really ought to have been scrapped). But it strikes gold with its first entry, playwright Romulus Linney's beautifully structured, compellingly detailed story ("Tennessee") of an elderly country woman's survival of hardship, duplicity, and inexorably changing times. Other veteran writers include Max Steele, whose anecdotal "The Unripe Heart" smoothly conveys the confusion of a distracted preadolescent's wary relationship with his "crazy" menopausal mother; Russell Banks, who limns in "The Outer Banks" a retired couple's unspoken shared apprehension of their own fate as they deal with the death of their dog; and Doris Betts, at her nerve-grating best in the tense tale ("Aboveground") of a grieving mother's conflicted lingering reactions to the murder of her teenaged daughter. Pieces by newly familiar writers include Dwight Allen's nostalgic, richly comic remembrance of a garrulous eccentric family's misadventures ("End of the Steam Age"); Lucia Nevai's sure-handed portrayal of a troubled marriage and a terminal illness "treated" by a forthright "Faith Healer"; and Bill Roorbach's wonderful "Big Bend," whose original premise matches a septuagenarian widower working for the National Park Service with a married amateur ornithologist, in a muted romantic comedy that features some irresistible dialogue exchanges (e.g., "The flesh is weak. . . . The flesh has a job to do"). The best discoveries include Aaron Gwyn'ssomber, involving depiction ("Of Falling") of a luckless "survivor" of numerous accidents who sees in the entire shape of his life the fact of his mortality; Corey Mesler's racy Faustian tale ("The Growth and Death of Buddy Gardner") of a '60s blues artist's supposed "pact with the devil"; and George Singleton's very funny "Show-and-Tell," about a schoolboy employed by his divorced father in a devious campaign to romance the boy's teacher. Ravenel is one of the most resourceful and intelligent editors in the business, and this entertaining 17th installment is one of her most pleasing productions.

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Product Details

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
New Stories Library Ser.
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.92(h) x 0.98(d)

Read an Excerpt

New Stories from the South: The Year's Best, 2000 tours the contemporary South better than any freight train, jet plane, or VW Bug. As Ellen Douglas muses in her preface to this year's collection, each story here helps us "feel and understand the significance of the buzzing blooming dying chaos of our experience."

  • An adulterous couple, whose love is like a hard drug, drives to Nashville to face worse news than they could have foreseen.
  • A box of kittens, discarded on the highway, becomes the bargaining chip in an unraveling marriage.
  • A young man habitually waves back to a chronic "waver" on hi commute to work, even as he's perplexed by what the waving might mean.

Now in its fifteenth year, New Stories from the South is the most enduring, most read regional collection, or as Kirkus Reviews said, "one of the best story anthologies around."

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