The Best American Short Stories 2013

( 8 )

Overview


?As our vision becomes more global, our storytelling is stretching in many ways. Stories increasingly change point of view, switch location, and sometimes pack as much material as a short novel might,? writes guest editor Elizabeth Strout. ?It?s the variety of voices that most indicates the increasing confluence of cultures involved in making us who we are.? The Best American Short Stories 2013 presents an impressive diversity of writers who dexterously lead us into their ...
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Overview


“As our vision becomes more global, our storytelling is stretching in many ways. Stories increasingly change point of view, switch location, and sometimes pack as much material as a short novel might,” writes guest editor Elizabeth Strout. “It’s the variety of voices that most indicates the increasing confluence of cultures involved in making us who we are.” The Best American Short Stories 2013 presents an impressive diversity of writers who dexterously lead us into their corners of the world.

In “Miss Lora,” Junot Díaz masterfully puts us in the mind of a teenage boy who throws aside his better sense and pursues an intimate affair with a high school teacher. Sheila Kohler tackles innocence and abuse as a child wanders away from her mother, in thrall to a stranger she believes is the “Magic Man.” Kirstin Valdez Quade’s “Nemecia” depicts the after-effects of a secret, violent family trauma. Joan Wickersham’s “The Tunnel” is a tragic love story about a mother’s declining health and her daughter’s helplessness as she struggles to balance her responsibility to her mother and her own desires. New author Callan Wink’s “Breatharians” unsettles the reader as a farm boy shoulders a grim chore in the wake of his parents’ estrangement.
“Elizabeth Strout was a wonderful reader, an author who knows well that the sound of one’s writing is just as important as and indivisible from the content,” writes series editor Heidi Pitlor. “Here are twenty compellingly told, powerfully felt stories about urgent matters with profound consequences.”

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
2013-09-01
Plenty of great stories, but lighter on discovery and revelation than some previous annuals. For the reader whose consumption of short stories doesn't extend much beyond this yearly collection, the latest delivers the goods. With novelist Strout (The Burgess Boys, 2013, etc.) serving as guest editor and making the final selection, the collection includes a number of writers widely regarded as masters of the form: Alice Munro, Lorrie Moore, George Saunders and Junot Díaz among them. Almost half of these stories originally appeared in either the New Yorker or Granta. Strout explains that voice was the dominant criterion in her selection: "Arguably, authorial voice is more important in a short story than in a longer piece of fiction. The ride is quicker, the response heightened, and less space is available in which to absorb patches of soggy writing or gratuitous detail." One of the quickest rides that generates the strongest response is "The Chair" by David Means, a first-person narration (as many of these stories are) by a father who can't be trusted to know himself, let alone do best by his son, as he finds himself "having to reestablish my command, or better yet, my guidance--a towering figure in his little mind...." Quite a few of these stories concern the essence of storytelling: "Stories are about things that don't happen. They could happen, but they don't. But they could" (Steven Millhauser, "A Voice in the Night"); "I'm Paul Harvey, and now you know the rest of the story" (Callan Wink, "Breatharians"). As always, the Contributors' Notes on the stories are fascinating, and writers will be encouraged to learn that one of the best stories here--"Horned Men" by Karl Taro Greenfeld--was rejected by some 50 publications before making it to print.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547554839
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/8/2013
  • Series: Best American Short Stories Series
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 66,317
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth  Strout

HEIDI PITLOR is a former senior editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and has been the series editor for The Best American Short Stories since 2007. She is the author of The Birthdays and a forthcoming novel titled The Daylight Marriage.

Biography

With the kind of reception that Elizabeth Strout's debut novel Amy and Isabelle received, one might have expected her to rush right back to her writing desk to author a follow-up while the proverbial iron was still hot. However, that is not the way that Strout works. "I wish tremendously that I was faster about all this," she recently told Bookpage.com. "But, you know, it didn't turn out to be that way." It ultimately took her about seven years to write Abide with Me, her sophomore effort, and the amount of time she put into crafting the novel is apparent on every page.

The multitudinous hours that went into writing Abide with Me are not anything new to Elizabeth Strout. She took any equally measured number of years to writer her debut, which she developed out of a short story. "It took me around three years to ‘clear my throat' for this book," she told Bookreporter.com at the time of the release of Amy and Isabelle. "During much of that time Amy and Isabelle remained a story. Once I got down to actually writing it as a novel it took another six or seven years." However, the pay off for the time she spent writing this humorous, expertly rendered tale of the troubled relationship between a mother and her daughter was substantial. Amy and Isabelle received nearly unanimous praise, lauded by Mademoiselle, The New Yorker, Newsweek, Time Magazine, People Magazine, and Publishers Weekly, to name just a few. The novel also nabbed nominations for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the Orange Prize for Fiction, and was the subject of a 2001 made-for-television movie starring Elizabeth Shue.

So, what kept Strout from completing her second novel sooner? Perhaps it was her unorthodox writing methods. "I try to get in three or four hours (of writing per day)," she explains, "and I put off having lunch for as long as I can because having lunch seems to change the energy flow. If I'm lucky, I'll get through till one o'clock. And then I throw everything out. And that's a morning's work."

While Strout may be indulging in a little good-natured, comical leg-pulling, she did not write Abide with Me to elicit giggles from her readers. This somber piece introduces Tyler Caskey, a minister in a small New England community whose mounting personal doubts following a tragedy cause the community that he serves to develop their own doubts about his ability to guide them spiritually.

While Abide with Me stands in contrast to the comparatively humorous Amy and Isabelle, it was not Strout's intention to render a serious exploration of theology or religion. She views the book as more of a character study. "It is the story of a minister," she explains. "I was interested in writing about a religious man who is genuine in his religiosity and who gets confronted with such sadness so abruptly that he loses himself. Not his faith, but his faith in himself."

With the admiration already pouring in for Abide with Me, Strout may very well have another bestseller on her hands. Publishers Weekly has called this striking novel "a harrowing meditation of exile on Main Street," while Booklist suggested that "Readers who enjoyed...Amy and Isabelle... will find much to move them in this tale of a man trying to get past his grief amid a town full of colorful people with their own secrets and heartaches."

Such praise may be of little interest to Strout, who once told Bookreporter.com, "When I finish a piece, I put it behind me and look to my future work." But considering her leisurely work methods, it may be several years before her readers get their hands on her any of her future work -- not that Strout needs to worry about whether or not her fans will forget her. As long as she continues producing work as rich and compelling as Amy and Isabelle and Abide with Me, she can take all the time she needs.

Update:
In 2009 Strout was honored with a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Olive Kitteridge, a collection of connected short stories about a woman and her immediate family and friends on the coast of Maine.

Good To Know

Some fun and fascinating outtakes from our interview with Strout:

"My first job was when I was about 12, cleaning houses in the afternoons for different elderly women in town. I hated it. I would be so bored scrubbing at some kitchen tile, that my mind would finally float all over the place, to the beach, to a friend's house...all this happened in my mind as I scrubbed those tiles, so it was certainly good for my imagination. But I did hate it."

"Without a doubt my mother was an inspiration for my writing. This is true in many ways, but mostly because she is a wonderful storyteller, without even knowing it. I would listen, as a child, when some friend of hers came to visit, and they would gossip about the different people they knew. My mother had the most fascinating stories about people's families, murderers, mental illnesses, babies abandoned, and she delivered it all in a matter-of-fact way that was terribly compelling. It made me believe that there was nothing more interesting than the lives of people, their real hidden lives, and this of course can lead one down the path of becoming a fiction writer."

"Later, in college, one of my favorite things was to go into town and sit at the counter at Woolworth's (so tragic to have them gone!) and listen to people talking; the waitresses and the customers -- I loved it. I still love to eavesdrop, but mostly I like the idea of being around people who are right in the middle of their lives, revealing certain details to each other -- leaving the rest for me to make up."

"I love theater. I love sitting in an audience and having the actors right there, playing out what it means to be a human being. There is something about the actual relationship that is going on between the audience and the actors that I just love. I love seeing the sets and costumes, the decisions that have been made about the staging...it's a place for the eye and the ear to be fully involved. I have always loved theater."

"I also like cell phones. What I mean by that is I hear many people complain about cell phones; they can't go anywhere without hearing someone on a cell phone, etc. But I love that chance to hear half a conversation, even if the person is just saying, ‘Hi honey, I'll be home in ten minutes, do you want me to bring some milk?' And I'm also grateful to have a cell phone, just to know it's there if I need it when I'm out and about. So I'm a cell phone fan."

"I don't especially like to travel, not the way many people do. I know many people that love to go to far-off and different places, and I've never been like that. I seem to get homesick as quickly as a child. I may like being in some new place for a few days, but then I want to go home and return to my routine and my familiar corner stores. I am a real creature of habit, without a doubt."

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    1. Hometown:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 6, 1956
    2. Place of Birth:
      Portland, Maine
    1. Education:
      B.A., Bates College, 1977; J.D., Syracuse College of Law, 1982
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2014

    Headgehog ✧ luvr

    Sigh...

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2014

    Terrui

    Worst collection of short stories I have ever read!!! The editor should be ashamed

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2014

    This book is utterly boring!!!!

    Where have the good story tellers gone? When did "short story" lose the "story" part? Why does intelligent now equal grindingly boring?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2014

    To the story

    Please continue!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2014

    ANONYMOUS STORY TO ALL

    A challenge to you all. If you have read the first three parts I want you to conduct your own ending at res five. I will check them all tomorrow evening.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2014

    To the anoymus auther (res 1)

    Were is the next one gonna be at

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2014

    Alan

    Continue the story continue the story thats really good continue it

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2014

    Switched Between Worlds: Part Two

    ~~~~~Hunter~~~~~ I slowly sat up feeling like one of my brothers dropped a brick on me. (Im speaking from experience.) I saw Makala laying on top of me. "Great." I muttered and sat up, waking Makala up. "What? Who?" Makala sat up and knoked her head up against me. "Ouch." I muttered, laying bak down. "Im so sorry, Hunter!" Makala said, getting off me nd pulling me to my feet. "Where are we?" I heard Amelia ask as she sat up. I looked around myself and frowned. "Definatly not in Makala's yard." I said. Then i noticed Savanna messing with a stick. "What is that?" I asked her as i walked over to her. She turned around wirh a wide grin on her face. "Its the eletric spear. For real!" She held it out to me and my eyes widened. I grabbed the smooth qood and i shocking pain ripped through my arms. "Ouch!" I yelped as i dropped it. "It shocked me!" I said in surprise. Amelia's eyes widened and felt behind her. She gasped and pulled a full on black bow from over her shoulder. "Theres even a quiver of gray shafted arrows." Makala smiled and over behind Amelia's other shoulder. Amelia reached her hand up and grabbed one of the arrows. "This is so cool." She muttered as she knocked the arrow on the string. It crackled suddenly with lightning. I smiled and reached for my belt. My fingers wrapped around a small smooth piece of wood. I pulled it out and saw it was. "The Lava Wand." I muttered, remembering the voice from before i woke up. Makala squealed like a fangirl and dug her hand into her coat pocket and pulled out a wand that looked like mine, but with blue instead of red. "This is already the best game ever." Amelia smiled. "But its not a game heroes." Came a voice behind us. I wheeled around and pointed my wand at the speaker. "Dont shoot Master Hunter!" The man yelped, putting his hands up. I lowered my wand and looked at him. "Who are you?" I asked. Savanna walked up behind me and peeked over my shoulder. Ameila put the arrow away and swung the bow over her shoulder. "I am Riley Woodsman." The man said. Everyone looked up at the name. My little brother's name is Riley Wooden. That cant be a coidence. Or can it? "I was sent to bring Master Hunter, Knight Amelia, Princess Makala, and Mage Savanna to the castle of this mighty land. "May i ask where is this mighty land?" Amelia asked, stepping forward. I was planning on naming the game Warroirs of Galica. "This is the land of Galica." Riley said. "What!" I yelped. Savanna and Makala were just as startled because i told them before tjid mess happened. Amelia seemingly ignored us and nodded. "Lead the way then, Mr. Woodsman." She smiled. "P-Please Knight Amelia. Call me Servent Riley." I smirked. "That does have a nice ring to it." I smiled and Makala punched my shoulder. "Hunter!" She hissed. I nodded. "Fine fine. Lets go then." I put my wand back in my belt and followed Amelia. "Sense when were you so good in thr midevil time language?" I asked curiously. "Sense i read the Ranger's Apprentice series." She smiled. I rolled my eyes. She was just obsesed with books. And the lasted were that Ranger series. She's been trying to get everyone to read them for some reason. Savanna smiled. "Master Hunter, Knight Amelia, Mage Savanna, and Princess Makala." She mussed. "I like being a mage." Makala smiled. "I wonder why Amelia seems so at rest here." I wondered. "She does have a big imagination." Savanna said. "True. But what if its something else?" I said. "She did say she was adopted. But from where?"

    0 out of 36 people found this review helpful.

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