Prize Stories 1997: The O. Henry Awards

Prize Stories 1997: The O. Henry Awards

by Larry Dark
     
 

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Established in 1918 as a memorial to O. Henry, this annual literary tradition has presented a remarkable offering of stories over its 82-year history. O. Henry first-prize winners have included Dorothy Parker, William Faulkner, Truman Capote, John Cheever, John Updike, and Cynthia Ozick as well as some lesser-known writers such as Alison Baker and Cornelia Nixon. Many

Overview

Established in 1918 as a memorial to O. Henry, this annual literary tradition has presented a remarkable offering of stories over its 82-year history. O. Henry first-prize winners have included Dorothy Parker, William Faulkner, Truman Capote, John Cheever, John Updike, and Cynthia Ozick as well as some lesser-known writers such as Alison Baker and Cornelia Nixon. Many talented writers who were known when first chosen for an O. Henry Award later went on to become seminal voices of contemporary fiction. Representative of the very best in contemporary American and Canadian fiction, these are varied, full-bodied, fictional creations brimming with life -- proof of the continuing strength and variety of the short story.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Proving that the term best is subjective, the editors of Prize Stories and Best American Short Stories (BASS) have selected entirely different lists to represent the highest-quality American short stories appearing last year. Only Carolyn Cooke has stories on both lists. Guest editor Proulx has added a new twist to BASS by grouping the stories into four broad categories. Rather than showing us the similarity of the selections, it demonstrates the complexity present in today's literary fiction and how the human concerns that manifest themselves in stories appear unique, owing to each author's voice and perspective. With new editor Dark, Prize Stories has expanded the number of magazines from which it selects, including for the first time Canadian authors and publications. Selected alongside familiar names like Alice Munro and John Barth are exciting new voices like Arthur Bradford and Thomas Glave. Both BASS and Prize Stories belong in most fiction collections. In the Signet title, "best" refers to best sellers, as Signet celebrates its 50th anniversary by printing new stories by blockbuster authors such as Stephen King, Ed McBain, and Erica Jong. As popular fiction is a different animal from literary fiction; only two or three of the included stories would ever be found in a literary journal. Instead, we find diverting stories that easily fit into genres like mystery, suspense, or romance. For popular collections.Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Idaho Lib., Moscow
Kirkus Reviews
The fortunes of the short story are about as uncertain today as those of Bosnia, mainly because it's no longer clear whether this once-popular literary form has many readers who are not writers themselves.

This new entry in the venerable annual series doesn't much help clarify matters. The tales gathered by editor Dark (The Literary Traveler, 1994) were originally published in the usual rarefied venues—i.e., nonprofit quarterlies and the New Yorker—and most of them read like workshop exercises or novel fragments. Mary Gordon, in "City Life," leads off the parade with yet another of her postmodern Horatio Alger tales, this one about a faculty wife at Columbia who thinks she has put her lower-class origins safely behind her until a weird encounter with a deranged neighbor. John Barth, in "On With the Story," gets metaphysical in his description of an unhappily married young woman on a cross- country flight increasingly unsettled by the short story she is reading, which seems practically a portrait of her own life, and unaware that the stranger in the seat beside her is its author. "Dancing After Hours" gives us Andre Dubus's by-now quite familiar portrait of broken-down passion in backwoods Massachusetts, this time involving a retired schoolteacher who tends bar and an invalid. Representatives of the younger generation include Thomas Glave, who, in "The Final Inning," describes the tensions that build up among the friends and relatives of a young black man from the ghetto who has died of AIDS, and how they erupt—quite literally over the body of the deceased. And Rick Moody, in "Demonology," also deals with a death in the family, this one being a young mother in suburban New Jersey who is remembered by her troubled younger brother.

Pale and wan and surprisingly unambitious throughout. Introspection may be the prerequisite of serious literature, but it is not its end—and is obviously not its guarantee.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385483612
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/15/1997
Pages:
500
Sales rank:
783,712
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)

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