The Pushcart Prize XXVIII: Best of the Small Presses, 2004 Edition


A vibrant exhibition of adventurous yet meticulously crafted writing.—Donna Seaman, BooklistThe Pushcart Prize XXVII continues as a testament to the flourishing of American literature in our small presses. Edited with the assistance of over 200 distinguished contributing editors—including Philip Levine, Rick Bass, Rosellen Brown, Joyce Carol Oates, Billy Collins, and Stephen Dunn—this edition includes over sixty stories, essays, and poems from scores of little magazines and ...

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A vibrant exhibition of adventurous yet meticulously crafted writing.—Donna Seaman, BooklistThe Pushcart Prize XXVII continues as a testament to the flourishing of American literature in our small presses. Edited with the assistance of over 200 distinguished contributing editors—including Philip Levine, Rick Bass, Rosellen Brown, Joyce Carol Oates, Billy Collins, and Stephen Dunn—this edition includes over sixty stories, essays, and poems from scores of little magazines and small presses, both print and online.
As the consolidation of commercial publishers continues, the small presses capture and encourage what is truly lasting and important in our literary culture. For new writers, the small presses are where they will almost always get their start. The Pushcart Prize serves as their inspiration and source book, with listings of hundreds of presses. Among writers discovered in the Pushcart editions are John Irving, Mary Gordon, Rick Moody, and many more.

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Editorial Reviews

Billy Collins
“America's best fiction, poetry, and essays for over twenty-five years.”
Wally Lamb
“I am fiercely loyal to and grateful for these editions.”
Russell Banks
“This is the anthology that writers read.”
Gerald Stern
“The best series...incredibly good.”
Mary Karr
“Urgent and absolutely necessary.”
Rick Moody
“The most creative, the more generous, and the most democratic of any of the annual volumes.”
Frank Conroy
“Indispensable for anyone with an interest in what is really going on in contemporary American writing.”
Chicago Tribune
“The ex-officio house organ for the American literary cosmos.”
Publishers Weekly
The Pushcart Prize spotlights small magazines, the genome of our literary culture. While Partisan Review folded this year, independents such as Threepenny Review, Zoetrope and Tin House (the latter two founded in the '90s) are flourishing. Editor Henderson errs on the side of excess: there are 61 contributions in fiction, essay and poetry. In nonfiction, there are strong personal essays, like Myra Jehlen's "F.P.," the memoir of a friend, which deals with the gruesome last rites of death (dressing the corpse, wheeling the coffin into the crematory, etc.) with an aplomb that habitu s of Six Feet Under will appreciate. Rachel Cohen's "Lost Cities," a meditation on two poet/clerks-Pessoa and Cavafy-raises the topic of fame's various scales, and the inspiration of the routine. 2003 might have been a year of war ("The big wars are over/but the small ones never end," as Dorothy Barresi's "Poem to Some of My Recent Purchases" sadly puts it), but the majority of this fiction is still very domestic. However, three stories do address terrorism: "At Five in the Afternoon" by George Steiner (about narco-traffickers), which is too wordy; Paul West's "Idlewild" (about the aftermath of 9/11), which is too oblique; and Ben Fountain III's "Near-Extinct Birds of the Central Cordillera," which sets in motion fresher ironies. John Blair, an ornithology grad student, is kidnapped by a Colombian leftist group that, to his dismay, sells out. Perhaps it is a sign of the times that there are few comic stories. An exception is Joan Connor's blackly humorous "What It Is," in which Connor throws a bucket of ice-cold prose over the disastrous tryst of two middle-aged lovers. Hopefully, these selections will tempt readers to go out and sample American small magazines themselves. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The 2004 iteration of the longstanding best-of series, as always, scours the literary journals for outstanding new fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and memoirs that ordinary readers might otherwise have missed. Some of the pieces here are merely fashionable and as such ephemeral; others promise to endure beyond a few literary seasons. Established writers are heavily represented, and there are wonderful entries from the likes of Evan S. Connell, who, perhaps in accidental homage to Stanley Elkin, imagines a curmudgeonly businessman adrift in history and given to dyspeptic griping about all sorts of things ("the republic would be better off if Nixon had spent a couple of decades mumbling and raving in the jug"); Joyce Carol Oates, who conjures up bookish nerds of the 1950s; and the normally hyperurbane George Steiner, who turns in a violent little tale from the drug wars ("Pablo Escobar? You want to know about Escobar? He was a turd. A mother-fucking turd"). Younger writers also figure, notably Valerie Laken in a nicely mannered debut work of short fiction. Pushcart publisher and author Henderson (Tower, 2000, etc.) proclaims that "this glorious collection . . . should give us all faith that in the age of American Empire-when money, machines, and machinations seem to rule-the still quiet voice of inspiration and individuality is alive and thriving." A little self-serving, that, but he's on the right track, emerging with another in a long line of good books.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781888889376
  • Publisher: Pushcart Press, The
  • Publication date: 11/19/2003
  • Edition description: 2004 Edition
  • Edition number: 28
  • Pages: 550
  • Sales rank: 1,273,742
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Bill Henderson is the founder and editor of the Pushcart Prize. He received the 2006 National Book Critic Circle’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Poets & Writers / Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award. He is also the author of several memoirs, including All My Dogs: A Life. The founder of the Lead Pencil Club, Henderson lives in New York.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
Election Eve 17
F.P. 33
Sidereal Desire 42
A Jeweler's Eye for Flaw 44
Ecclesiastes 63
The Dystopianist, Thinking of His Rival, is Interrupted by a Knock on the Door 65
Gate C22 74
A Measure of Acceptance 76
The Girl in the Back Seat Returns to Pittsburgh 88
He Ain't Jesus 90
Shrike Tree 105
At Five in the Afternoon 107
Baby 141
Near-Extinct Birds of the Central Cordillera 146
Commerce 169
The High Road 171
Song of the Little Zion Baptist Church 190
Idlewild 192
Cain's Legacy 214
Losing My Religion 216
When I Died 221
Mines 222
Little Text 234
Lost Cities 238
These 249
Before Long 250
Ikaria (The Night Watchers) 265
Three Girls 268
Is 277
Morning Glory Harley 285
Dedication 289
Sauteing the Platygast 291
Adept 307
What it is 310
Bonfires 324
Literary Devices 326
Richard Nixon's 1972 Christmas Bombing Campaign as Gospel 342
John Muir's Alaskan Rhapsody 344
The Dragon 350
Why the Sky Turns Red When the Sun Goes Down 352
Poem for the Wheat Penny (1909-1958) 370
Egg 372
Roy Orbison's Last Three Notes 388
Children of God 390
Like Water 407
Bi Bi Hua 408
Queen City, Skins 438
Kavita Through Glass 441
Cicada 452
Irish Mountain 458
Beautiful Nero 479
The Return of the Dark Children 482
Primer of Words 493
The Lonely Doll 497
Aubade 512
Pretty 514
Five Landscapes 525
Likely Lake 528
Quarter Past Blue 539
Afterwards 540
Poem to Some of My Recent Purchases 547
Special Mention 551
Presses Featured in the Pushcart Prize Editions Since 1976 556
Contributing Small Presses 562
Contributors' Notes 572
Index 575
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