New Stories from the South 2005: The Year's Best

Overview

Over the past two decades, New Stories from the South has been identified as “one of the most significant and eagerly anticipated annual collections of American short stories” (Booklist). The quality of the selections and the skill of its editor have been lauded: “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. . . . Ravenel is one of the most resourceful and intelligent editors in the ...

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Overview

Over the past two decades, New Stories from the South has been identified as “one of the most significant and eagerly anticipated annual collections of American short stories” (Booklist). The quality of the selections and the skill of its editor have been lauded: “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. . . . Ravenel is one of the most resourceful and intelligent editors in the business” (Kirkus Reviews, starred). And NPR commentator Alex Chadwick sums it up best when he calls New Stories “A good answer to the question, ‘Why read fiction?’”(NPR’s Morning Edition).

It’s in these pages that readers first encountered many of the writers whose work they’ve now followed and enjoyed for years, and where they continue to find the freshest voices on the verge of stardom. In the 2005 volume, Ravenel treats us to works by Robert Olen Butler, Dennis Lehane, Moira Crone, Tom Franklin, Michael Parker, Rebecca Soppe, and Bret Anthony Johnston, among many others, and a preface by the inimitable Jill McCorkle.Whether it’s a young woman taking her teacher to task for favoring his more beautiful students, or a couple on the edge of despair with their colicky baby, or a neighbor who takes too much interest in the girl next door, these selections illustrate the ways in which a good story can electrify a reader.

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Editorial Reviews

KLIATT
Any collection of fiction from Southern writers has to first confront the issue of stereotypical characters, language, food, religion and politics. Ravenel, an editor of anthologies of American short stories, has specialized most recently in stories of the South. She concludes that Southern culture is a "stack of transparencies," in which the different stereotypes become a prism through which writers and readers view the same world through different lenses. One characteristic most of these stories share is a feeling of sadness, mixed with humor. In "The Choir Director Affair (The Baby's Teeth)" the narrator tells of his relationship with a young couple who birth a baby with a full set of teeth. The baby's father is having an affair with the choir director and the narrator becomes entangled in their lives and attached to the baby. As he writes, "The things we once loved do not change, only our belief in them." In "Jane's Hat," a young girl's hat is swiped off her head by her principal. This leads to the story of integration at their small Southern school in 1968 and a reunion with her old friend many years later. Each story is followed by a short biography of the author and the author's recollection of what inspired the story and how it was written, which is often as interesting as the story itself. The stories are followed by a list of magazines from which the tales were chosen and a complete list of stories in these collections since 1986. KLIATT Codes: JSA—Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2005, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 309p. illus., Ages 12 to adult.
—Nola Theiss
Kirkus Reviews
The familiar annual celebrates its 20th anniversary with 19 stories that pull their imaginative starter cultures from below the Mason-Dixon Line. With an introduction by Jill McCorkle, whose account of an exchange with a Northern waiter who tells her iced tea is "out of season" is worth the price of admission, the collection contains seven must-not-miss stories, three by relative newcomers and four by seasoned pros. Stephanie Soileau's star-turn "The Boucherie," about a group of Cajun old-timers who conspire to hide an AWOL cow from the authorities while making a refugee family from Sudan (which they all think is in India) feel right at home, is sure to clinch her a first-book contract if she doesn't have one already. Two other writers to watch, Ethan Hauser and Rebecca Soppe, also offer fiction that feels decidedly rooted in a 21st-century South, with, respectively, "The Charm of the Highway Median" and "The Pantyhose Man." From the trusty Southern tale-tellers, Allan Gurganus conjures a retired librarian's path to sexual enlightenment in "My Heart Is a Snake Farm"; Moira Crone reveals the consequences of never saying anything not nice in "Mr. Sender"; Robert Olen Butler solves one of the great riddles of our time in "Severance"; and Judy Budnitz haunts the reader with her story of a Civil War surgeon's desperate, final act in "The Kindest Cut." Anniversaries are helpful milestones for pausing and taking stock of traditions to ensure they're thriving and not headed down a worn path. In that spirit, it's important to note that several stories here, including work by Gregory Sanders, Lucinda Harrison Coffman and Janice Daugharty, are familiar as kudzu along a Georgia highway. That said,the pleasures here outdistance the shortcomings by a country mile.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565124691
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 6/28/2005
  • Series: New Stories from the South Ser.
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 5.92 (w) x 8.94 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

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