The Best American Short Stories 1996

Overview

Each fall The Best American Short Stories provides a fresh showcase for this rich and unpredictable form. Selected from an unusually wide variety of publications, John Edgar Wideman's choices for 1996 place stories from esteemed national magazines alongside those from some of the smallest and most innovative literary journals. Dazzling new work from favorite authors includes Mary Gordon's" Intertextuality," in which a sentence by Proust propels the narrator into an intricate portrait of her Irish American ...
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Overview

Each fall The Best American Short Stories provides a fresh showcase for this rich and unpredictable form. Selected from an unusually wide variety of publications, John Edgar Wideman's choices for 1996 place stories from esteemed national magazines alongside those from some of the smallest and most innovative literary journals. Dazzling new work from favorite authors includes Mary Gordon's" Intertextuality," in which a sentence by Proust propels the narrator into an intricate portrait of her Irish American grandmother. From Robert Olen Butler comes the wry and warm tale " Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot," in which a man learns the consequences of marital distrust. Alice Adams employs her customary finesse to contrast the stinging vulnerability of early adolescence with the burdens and pleasures of midlife. Including contributions from Joyce Carol Oates, Lynn Sharon Schwartz, Rick Bass, and an array of stunning new talent, The Best American Short Stories 1996 is a rewarding, en
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
While some installments of this annual anthology could more accurately be titled The Best Short Stories Published by the New Yorker," many of this year's selections are culled from more obscure literary magazines, with a number of new voices standing alongside series regulars such as Joyce Carol Oates and Alice Adams. Among the more established writers, a standout is Jamaica Kincaid's "In Roseau," a tale of a girl who gets involved in an erotic triangle with a married couple. Two writers who have won critical acclaim without yet reaching the wide audience they deserve weigh in with very impressive pieces: Stuart Dybeck offers a surreal yet oddly coherent story of love, loss and Chinese food in "Paper Lantern"; while Melanie Rae Thon's "Xmas, Jamaica Plain" demonstrates her considerable gift for capturing a character's voice. Few of the new writers that Wideman includes hold their own against their better-known counterparts; an exception is Junot Daz, whose "Ysrael" is a fierce and unblinking story of a disfigured boy who wears a mask and the other children determined to see beneath it. But other newer writers, such as Jason Brown and William Lychak, seem in their different ways to be prime examples of the sort of middle-of-the-road fiction produced by M.F.A. programs: dutifully well-crafted stories whose content is derivative and uninspired. Overall, this is an engaging collection, though one that provides scant evidence for the existence of a new generation of talented short story writers. (Nov.)
Kirkus Reviews
Wideman's smart introduction to this annual series challenges the standard criteria for inclusion, and justifies his other departures from convention—he selects 24 stories, not 20, and he knowingly reprints a selection ("In Roseau") from Jamaica Kincaid's recently published novel, The Autobiography of My Mother.

All of which leads to a remarkably catholic collection, one that seldom sounds a repetitive note, or suggests one typical style for the times. Multicultural themes prevail, with differing consequences: Lan Chang's "The Eve of the Spirit Festival" chronicles the uneasy assimilation of an Asian widower and his two daughters in New York; first-timer Akhil Sharma's "If You Sing Like That for Me" splendidly evokes a young woman's fears as a wife in Delhi, India; Mary Gordon's "Intertextuality," despite its pretentious title, expertly recalls her Irish immigrant grandmother; and Peter Ho Davies's "The Silver Screen" is a Keystone Kops version of communist revolutionaries in postwar Malaysia, a comedy undermined by the radicals' brutal violence. Dan Chaon's troubling "Fitting Ends" focuses on the narrator's haunted recollections of his juvenile delinquent brother. William Henry Lewis's powerful "Shades" announces a welcome new voice in African-American fiction. The ubiquitous Melanie Rae Thon contributes another of her gritty tales, this of a teenaged prostitute and her best friend, a transvestite prostitute. And Joyce Carol Oates assumes the voice of a girl growing up in strange, seedy circumstances. Anna Keesey ("Bright Water") convincingly takes on the epistolary style of a 19th-century businessman writing to his son, who leads a millenarian Christian cult. Stylistically, the volume stretches from Stephen Dixon's stream-of-consciousness narrative in "Sleep" to William Lychak's delightfully fabulistic tale about an odd woman from the sea. Stories by Robert Olen Butler and Susan Perabe have already appeared in Best Stories from the South, and Junot DĂ­az's "Ysrael" is in his much-noted debut collection, Drown (p. 916).

A perfect place to sample the wide range of current fiction.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395752906
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 11/1/1996
  • Series: Best American Short Stories Series
  • Pages: 363
  • Product dimensions: 5.52 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

John Edgar Wideman won the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1984 for Sent for You Yesterday and in 1990 for Philadelphia Fire. His second memoir, Fatheralong, was a finalist for the National Book Award. His most recent books are Hoop Roots and The Island: Martinique. He teaches at Brown University.
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Table of Contents

Foreword
Introcution
Complicities 1
Fires 7
Driving the Heart 20
Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot 33
The Eve of the Spirit Festival 40
Fitting Ends 51
The Silver Screen 69
Ysrael 86
Sleep 97
Paper Lantern 113
The Incredible Appearing Man 126
Intertextuality 151
Past My Future 159
Bright Winter 177
In Roseau 195
Shades 213
A Stand of Fables 220
Ghost Girls 226
Sculpture I 242
Some Say the World 256
The Trip to Halawa Valley 269
If You Sing Like That for Me 282
All Shall Love Me and Despair 307
Xmas, Jamacia Plain 321
Contributors' Notes 329
100 Other Distinguished Stories of 1995 345
Editorial Addresses of American and Canadian Magazines Publishing Short Stories 349
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