New Stories from the South 2009

New Stories from the South 2009

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by Madison Smartt Bell

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In the twenty-fourth volume of this distinguished anthology, Madison Smartt Bell chooses twenty-one distinctive pieces of short fiction to tell the story of the South as it is now. This is a South that is still recognizable but no longer predictable. As he says, "to the traditional black and white recipe (ever a tricky and volatile mixture) have been added new


In the twenty-fourth volume of this distinguished anthology, Madison Smartt Bell chooses twenty-one distinctive pieces of short fiction to tell the story of the South as it is now. This is a South that is still recognizable but no longer predictable. As he says, "to the traditional black and white recipe (ever a tricky and volatile mixture) have been added new shades and strains from Asia and Central and South America and just about everywhere else on the shrinking globe." Just as Katrina brought out into the open all the voices of New Orleans, so the South is now many things, both a distinctive region and a place of rootlessness. It's these contradictions that Madison Smartt Bell has captured in this provocative and moving collection of stories.

Here you'll find the well-known—Wendell Berry, Elizabeth Spencer, Jill McCorkle—alongside those writers just making their debuts, in stories that show the South we always thought we knew, making itself over, and over.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Matthew Weaver
Now in its twenty-fourth edition, New Stories from the South is a story collection similar to the Best American Short Stories annual anthology produced by Houghton Mifflin, with a Southern flair. As to be expected in stories devoted to the contemporary South, Hurricane Katrina's reverberations run through the offerings, particularly in Stephanie Dickinson's "Love City," where various survivors take up residence at a seedy motel surrounded by violence. Credit goes to Bell for the selection process. Like all collections, not every story will land for every reader, but there are few actual misfires. High points are Katherine Karlin's "Muscle Memory," in which Destiny hopes to honor her father, killed in Katrina, by learning his craft of welding; Michael Knight's "Grand Old Party," in which a husband ambushes his wife and her lover, then hides and listens to the rest of their conversation, and Geoff Wyss's "Child of God," in which various male teachers work to protect the honor of a pregnant valedictorian, a tale noteworthy from the very first line. Many stories will serve as gateways to the best of today's literature. If the book does nothing more than usher readers to embrace George Singleton, one of the best Southern writers currently working, through his short story included here, "Between Wrecks," then that's still a gift of immeasurable worth. If they find other new authors to love, then that is truly priceless. Reviewer: Matthew Weaver
Publishers Weekly
Hurricane Katrina hangs like tendrils of Spanish moss over this uneven anthology of Southern fiction. The storm and its aftermath is most skillfully handled by Katherine Karlin in “Muscle Memory,” where Destiny, whose father drowned in the flood, tries to learn welding in the shipyard where her father worked. Her fight is far more moving than Stephanie Dickinson’s “Love City,” in which Katrina feels shoehorned into a story of poverty and anger. Best are George Singleton’s “Between Wrecks,” imbued with a strong sense of the everyday bizarre and dark Southern wit and peopled by a fake arrowhead dealer and grave robbers; and “Family Museum of the Ancient Postcards” by Stephanie Powell Watts, with its perceptive young narrator and the secrets she keeps for her aunt Ginny. There are some strong, original and revealing stories that offer a different and new way of viewing the South, but far too many are technically sound but bloodless. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews
Thematic imbalance and wan lyricism figure rather too prominently in this 24th installment of the annual series. It's understandable that the chaos wreaked by Hurricane Katrina continues to loom, like a buzzard hungrily circling overhead, in the contemporary Southern imagination. Nevertheless, with one exception, this volume's several Katrina-inflected stories tell us little not already eloquently presented in news coverage and analysis of that horror. The exception is Katherine Karlin's gritty "Muscle Memory," in which a bereaved adult daughter honors her late father and the storm's victims by learning her daddy's signature skill-welding. This fine story's detailed attention to the earthy business of living contrasts powerfully with too many flat, cliched depictions of sexual experimentation, fraying relationships and failed marriages. That said, a generous amount of this volume's contents is very much worth reading. Veteran authors Elizabeth Spencer and Kelly Cherry deftly identify the fallout from fallible parents' misadventures (in "Banger Finds Out" and "Sightings," respectively). The classic Southern emphasis on clannishness and its discontents is freshly portrayed in Michael Knight's envisioning of a betrayed husband's surprising encounter with his wife's lover ("Grand Old Party"); Stephanie Powell Watt's slyly understated account of an independent "maiden" aunt's various effects on her semi-scandalized relations ("Family Museum of the Ancient Postcards"); and Cary Holladay's lovely "Horse People," which channels both Eudora Welty and Harper Lee to tell the life story of a gentle, reflective protagonist influenced in more ways than he can count by the character of his compassionatefather, a respected Virginia judge. Best of all are Pinckney Benedict's "The World, the Flesh, and the Devil," about an American fighter pilot in Vietnam accidentally transformed from predator into "prey," and Clinton J. Stewart's "Bird Dog," which illuminates with precise prose and savage irony the consequences of a well-meaning father's attempt to make "a man" of his sensitive, musically gifted son. Just uneven enough to make seeking out its several gems an entertaining and rewarding reading experience.

Product Details

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Madison Smartt Bell is the author of twelve novels and two short story collections. All Souls' Rising was a finalist for the 1995 National Book Award and the 1996 PEN/Faulkner Award. It won the 1996 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for the best book of the year dealing with matters of race. He has written essays and reviews for Harper's, the New York Review of Books, the New York Times Book Review, the Village Voice, and many other publications.

Brief Biography

Baltimore, Maryland
Date of Birth:
August 1, 1957
Place of Birth:
Nashville, Tennessee
A.B. in English, Princeton University, 1979; M.A. in English and creative writing, Hollins College, 1981

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New Stories from the South 2009 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Penpop More than 1 year ago
I always love to pick up the new version of New Stories from the South. It's always full of good to great stories from writers you know and writers you want to know. Pick one up every year and you won't be disappointed.