New Stories from the South: The Year's Best 1997

New Stories from the South: The Year's Best 1997

by Shannon Ravenel
     
 

The twelfth volume of the annual anthology is packed with nineteen entertaining stories. From a cautionary tale about the difficulties of loving a space alien to a new twist on a young Southerner's struggle in the wilds of Manhattan, these stories range from the hilarious to the poignant.

The preface, by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Robert Olen Butler, looks

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Overview

The twelfth volume of the annual anthology is packed with nineteen entertaining stories. From a cautionary tale about the difficulties of loving a space alien to a new twist on a young Southerner's struggle in the wilds of Manhattan, these stories range from the hilarious to the poignant.

The preface, by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Robert Olen Butler, looks at what fiction is: "Fiction is, at its heart, the art form of human yearning."

The authors in the 1997 edition of New Stories are Gene Able, Dwight Allen, Edward Allen, Robert Olen Butler, Janice Daugharty, Ellen Douglas, Pam Durban, Charles East, Rhian Margaret Ellis, Tim Gautreaux, Elizabeth Gilbert, Lucy Hochman, Beauvais McCaddon, Dale Ray Phillips, Patricia Elam Ruff, Lee Smith, Judy Troy, Marc Vassallo, and Brad Vice.

Editorial Reviews

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.
ForeWord
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.
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.
Mississippi Northeas Daily Journal
When it comes to reading, it just flat-out doesn't get much better than ‘New Stories from the South.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"I say to those who read this volume, let there be peace now about what the South is or isn't.... The `South' is just a great excuse to bring some wonderful artists together to peer deep into the yearnings of the human heart." As contributor Robert Olen Butler's preface suggests, both newcomers and natives, stalwarts and up-and-comers, show up in these 19 splendid stories, and the quality of their work should overwhelm all geo-historical niggling. For some, place is a central character; for others, a necessary but ethereal backdrop. More constant than any version of Southernness is a preoccupation with mortality. Many of the tales concern characters who, in the face of death, must take stock of their lives. In Patricia Elam Ruff's affecting "The Taxi Ride," we watch 75-year-old Helen as she nurses her husband through his final weeks, then share her exhilaration, grief and anguish when she is befriended by an elderly cab driver. In Marc Vassallo's "After the Opera," the ghost of old love inhabits the body of the living, as a man learns that his widowed mother has secretly married his father's rival colleague. Family estrangements aren't the only distances covered in this collection. Race relations take center stage in several of the stories; so does frustrated passion. Dale Ray Phillips's "Corporal Love" gives a brilliant look at the emotion that lingers after a marriage has ended. On a lighter note, Butler's "Help Me Find My Spaceman Lover" is a hilarious, touching story about a relationship between a lonely divorce and an alien she meets in the parking lot of a 24-hour Wal-Mart in Bovary, Ala. Pathos, levity, sarcasm and social commentary mix gracefully in this 11th annual edition. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Once again, this series does not disappoint. As the South has changed, so have the voices emerging from the deltas, farms, and burgeoning metropolitan areas. These voices offer personal histories of human interactions, such as Rick DeMarinis's "Borrowed Hearts." Others, like Mary Gordon's "Storytelling," reveal the gifts of friendships and the inspirations for stories. Most of these stories are not particularly Southern-related, but they are most definitely Southern-flavored. The memorable writing of Laura Payne Butler's "Booker T's Coming Home" speaks of the legacy of the South, while this reader's personal favorite, Wendy Brenner's "The Human Side of Instrumental Transcommunication," seems to be taking place anywhere and nowhere. Short stories such as these remind the world that the South has rich, deep talent and fertile ground for the art of storytelling. There's writing here to please any reader, no matter what his or her geography.--Shannon Haddock, Bellsouth Corporate Lib. & Business Research Ctr., Birmingham, AL Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The 11th installment in this excellent series is certainly one of the strongest, with 19 stories that capture the diversity of the South in voice and place, drawing on a range of old and new talents.

The Old South of decaying mansions, men in seersucker, and women in lace is well recalled in first-rate tales by Charles East ("Pavane for a Dead Princess"), who meditates on the phenomenon of elderly ladies and their young male companions; by Pam Durban ("Gravity"), who beautifully records the decline of a once- distinguished Charleston family; and by Ellen Douglas ("Julia and Nellie"), who offers a tale of friendship transcending serious religious conflict. The rural and working-class South provides its own meaning and wistfulness: In Judy Troy's "Ramone," a young girl relocates to the small Texas town where her stepfather's father lies dying; in Patricia Elam Ruff's moving and elegiac "The Taxi Ride," an elderly woman, tired but happy in her long marriage, finds a welcome friend in a courtly cab-driver; in Janice Daugharty's "Along a Wider River," a former sharecropper watches his old boss fumble and die while fishing; and in Rhian Margaret Ellis's "Every Building Wants to Fall," a fatherless girl, feeling powerless and hopeless as well, discovers a perverse strength in causing her friend's epileptic seizures. Some inspired low comedy (and more class conflict) comes from two familiar experts: Tim Gautreaux's "Little Frogs in a Ditch" is a droll tale concerning a no-account loser who sells common roof pigeons as homing pigeons; and Lee Smith's unsparing "Native Daughter" turns on the conceit of its haughty narrator, a pretty girl from Kentucky who doesn't realize that her clubby male companions consider her easy trash.

Robert Olen Butler's tetchy introduction—with its bristling at the notion of "Southern" fiction—insists on the universality of art, but his fears are misplaced. The superb stories here quietly demonstrate that the universal always resides in the particular.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781565121751
Publisher:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
01/28/1997
Series:
New Stories from the South Series
Edition description:
Annual
Pages:
306
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.86(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."

Meet the Author

ROBERT OLEN BUTLER is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of numerous novels and short story collections. He has twice won a National Magazine Award in Fiction and has received two Pushcart Prizes. He teaches creative writing at Florida State University.

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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