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The Best American Short Stories 2009

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Edited by critically acclaimed, best-selling author Alice Sebold, the stories in this year's collection serve as a provacative literary "antenna for what is going on in the world" (Chicago Tribune). The collection boasts great variety from "famous to first-timers, sifted from major magazines and little reviews, grand and little worlds" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), ensuring y Edited by critically acclaimed, best-selling author Alice Sebold, the stories in this year's collection serve as a provacative literary "antenna for what is going on in the world" (Chicago Tribune). The collection boasts great variety from "famous to first-timers, sifted from major magazines and little reviews, grand and little worlds" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), ensuring yet another rewarding, eduring edition of the oldest and best-selling Best American. The idiot President / Daniel Alarcón -- Yurt / Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum -- Rubiaux rising / Steve de Jarnatt -- Beyond the pale / Joseph Epstein -- A shadow table / Alice Fulton -- NowTrends / Karl Taro Greenfeld -- The farms / Eleanor Henderson -- Sagittarius / Greg Hrbek -- Hurricanes anonymous / Adam Johnson -- The anniversary trip / Victoria Lancelotta -- A man like him / Yiyun Li -- The briefcase / Rebecca Makkai -- Magic words / Jill McCorkle -- One dog year / Kevin Moffett -- Modulation / Richard Powers -- Them old cowboy songs / Annie Proulx -- Into the gorge / Ron Rash -- Ostracon / Alex Rose -- The peripatetic coffin / Ethan Rutherford -- Muzungu / Namwali Serpell -- Contributors' notes -- 100 other distinguished stories of 2008 -- Editorial addresses of American and Canadian magazines publishing short stories


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Edited by critically acclaimed, best-selling author Alice Sebold, the stories in this year's collection serve as a provacative literary "antenna for what is going on in the world" (Chicago Tribune). The collection boasts great variety from "famous to first-timers, sifted from major magazines and little reviews, grand and little worlds" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), ensuring y Edited by critically acclaimed, best-selling author Alice Sebold, the stories in this year's collection serve as a provacative literary "antenna for what is going on in the world" (Chicago Tribune). The collection boasts great variety from "famous to first-timers, sifted from major magazines and little reviews, grand and little worlds" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), ensuring yet another rewarding, eduring edition of the oldest and best-selling Best American. The idiot President / Daniel Alarcón -- Yurt / Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum -- Rubiaux rising / Steve de Jarnatt -- Beyond the pale / Joseph Epstein -- A shadow table / Alice Fulton -- NowTrends / Karl Taro Greenfeld -- The farms / Eleanor Henderson -- Sagittarius / Greg Hrbek -- Hurricanes anonymous / Adam Johnson -- The anniversary trip / Victoria Lancelotta -- A man like him / Yiyun Li -- The briefcase / Rebecca Makkai -- Magic words / Jill McCorkle -- One dog year / Kevin Moffett -- Modulation / Richard Powers -- Them old cowboy songs / Annie Proulx -- Into the gorge / Ron Rash -- Ostracon / Alex Rose -- The peripatetic coffin / Ethan Rutherford -- Muzungu / Namwali Serpell -- Contributors' notes -- 100 other distinguished stories of 2008 -- Editorial addresses of American and Canadian magazines publishing short stories

30 review for The Best American Short Stories 2009

  1. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Strongest BASS in quite a while! I was absolutely knocked out by Steve De Jarnatt's amazing "Rubiaux Rising," which could make a short story reader out of any skeptic. Other standouts for me: stories by Richard Powers, Annie Proulx, Ethan Rutherford and Joseph Epstein. Wow, genius! Two stories on modern China (by Greenfeld and Li) also fascinated me. Hey! Somebody consult the legal department! There are no Alice Munro stories here. She lands three on the extended list, but it's hard to believe no Strongest BASS in quite a while! I was absolutely knocked out by Steve De Jarnatt's amazing "Rubiaux Rising," which could make a short story reader out of any skeptic. Other standouts for me: stories by Richard Powers, Annie Proulx, Ethan Rutherford and Joseph Epstein. Wow, genius! Two stories on modern China (by Greenfeld and Li) also fascinated me. Hey! Somebody consult the legal department! There are no Alice Munro stories here. She lands three on the extended list, but it's hard to believe none deserved inclusion. Of course, she doesn't really need the recognition anymore. But with Updike gone, it feels like the passing of an era. Along those lines, the series needs to look to the future. Good to see some historical fiction included here, but the series still needs more genre stories. (Guest editor Chabon pointed this out in 2005.) Hrbek's "Sagittarius" clearly got the annual slot that's gone recently to Karen Russell for a story in the literary/surreal approach to genre. My strongest word of advice to series ed. Heidi Pitlor (who has my dream job!) is embrace more genre fiction. Rid yourself of the workshoppy deadweight and go for a killer mix of literary and genres that truly encompasses the full spectrum of American stories.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chad Bearden

    As with all the 'Best American' anthologies, the enjoyment you're likely to take away varies from story to story, but most of the stories are above-average to great. The 2009 edition is no different, with a lot of really nice work, and only one dud (in my opinion). The one misfire was Steve de Jarnatt's Rubiaux Rising, which was just a bit beat-you-over-the-head for my taste. War veteran stories can work. Hurricane Katrina stories can work. But when your story is about a war veteran amputee locke As with all the 'Best American' anthologies, the enjoyment you're likely to take away varies from story to story, but most of the stories are above-average to great. The 2009 edition is no different, with a lot of really nice work, and only one dud (in my opinion). The one misfire was Steve de Jarnatt's Rubiaux Rising, which was just a bit beat-you-over-the-head for my taste. War veteran stories can work. Hurricane Katrina stories can work. But when your story is about a war veteran amputee locked in an attic during Hurricane Katrina, you're kind of pushing it. It reads more like something one of my middle school students would write in an earnest attempt to be powerful, but instead overshoots the target so far it becomes comical. Shame on Heidi Pitlor for ever passing this through round one of the selection process, and double shame on Ms. Sebold to rejecting something else to make room for this bleh. The other Katrina story is far more effective. Adam Johnson's Hurricanes Anonymous works so astoundingly well because its protagonist, Nonc, is a much more subtle character being forced by his circumstances to make far more subtle decisions whose importance you only begin to suspect as the story reaches its resolution. The rest of the stories, in ascending order of where they rate in my modest esteem... Two stories toward the end both deal in their own ways with the growing disconnect with reality that comes with aging. Ron Rash's Into the Gorge reads like something out of a Coen Brothers film, with a rash decision leading an aging farmer to a tricky moral dilemma which he ultimately discovers is so straight forward, its kind of depressing. The second, Ostracon, by Alex Rose, hit me a bit harder, as its aging heroinne seems on the verge of the same dementia that affected by grandfather when I was younger. The power of the story lies not in the overt depiction of senility, but in the way the narrator doesn't seem to realize that this is on her horizon. Victoria Lancelotta's The Anniversary Trip takes me back to a long since gone trip to Paris, viewed through the eyes of a dissatisfied wife. The catch is that, although she is tired of her husband, she is not so tired of her mother-in-law, who pays for the couple's Parisian vacation so that they might all commemorate a special occasion together. Lancelotta wrings some wonderful character dynamics from this scenario, with both mother-in-law and daughter-in-law being far more interesting in their view of one another than I first suspected. Alice Fulton's The Shadow Table also draws forth some interesting character relationships as a romanced waitress finds herself sucked into the sometimes uncomfortable higher society where resides her jovial and mostly innocent suitor. Elenor Henderson also overlaps two cultures in The Farms which explores an awkward collision between two poor black girls and their well-intentioned white neighbor and peer. Karl Taro Greenfeld's NowTrends is one of two stories that explores exotic (to me anyway) Chinese society. This story looks at Chinese journalists, and the vastly different philosophy one must take toward reportage when the state leans quite heavily on the media. Yiyun Li's A Man Like Him also takes China for its setting, and takes a very nuanced and somewhat uncomfortable look at a man's desires and how they can mean one thing inside his own mind, and quite another to the society who feels they must judge him. The Briefcase, by Rebecca Makkai, could either take place in a historically fictional totalitarian past, or a prophetic Orwellian future. Either setting implies the same lesson: that man is capable not only of horrible acts against his own species, but also of daring acts of mental deception whenever necessary to preserve a sense of well-being. The Idiot President, by Daniel Alarcon, journey's into the industrializing rain-forests of South America, where a young actor experiences theater in its rawest form. The climax of the story, an unconventional performance for an unconventional audience, captures wonderfully the feeling of a transcendant artistic experience. Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum's Yurt similarly treads into a world I am familiar with, that of teaching. The tenuous and eccentric comraderie of a school faculty is deftly portrayed as Bynum's Ms. Hempel moves through her day, an observer of the urges and heartbreaks that drive teachers into and out of their professions. Ms. Hempel's role-model, Ms. Duffy, an accurate proxy of what most teachers are: caring and passionate and flawed and opportunistically mysterious when given the chance. Muzungu, by Namwali Serpell, begins in one place, as an account of the life of an expatriot child and the estate on which she resides, and ends up in a completely different place, as the moment in a child's life when she realizes that the world around her is bigger than she is, and her role is judged to be something far different than what she originally surmised. Annie Proulx offers up a fairly standard account of life on the frontier with her 19th century cowboy story, Them Old Cowboy Songs. The magic lies in the bleakness that permeates the world of the struggling cowpuncher, Archie, as he makes a feeble and impotent attempt to start a family. Proulx has an amazing way, not of tieing all of the story's threads together, but of watching them each dangle into the harsh plains winds. Watching the threads come together is something saved for Jill McCorkle's Magic Words, where the narrative pivots relentlessly between multiple narrators, each etched out very efficiently by McCorkle as the characters' lives cascade toward one another. Richard Powers performs a similar, yet utterly distinct, feat with Modulation, which also shifts its point-of-view between multiple narrators whose lives don't collide, so much as drift together on the same current. The technological implications of Powers' story takes on an almost sci-fi quality, with a fantasmagorical climax that ends on an effectively bittersweet note. Kevin Moffatt's One Dog Year is an odd story about an aging J.D. Rockefeller, who is portrayed here as a strange fellow, but with an impressively relatable personality. Moffatt, in his author's notes, says that the story is based on an actual event, which gives the story a strange energy that satisfies even as it fictionalizes a moment in a real man's life. Ethan Rutherford's The Peripatetic Coffin similarly draws from history to tell a fascinating story, this time of the seemingly doomed adventures of a Confederate submarine, The Hunley. Its one thing to read about such contraptions, but Rutherford impressively brings to life this ship's exploits and the whys and wherefores of how any man could ever volunteer to work on a craft that seemed to kill every crewman who boarded her. Parallelling the hapless rebel mariners' tales with the increasingly bleak outlook for the Confederacy as the war neared its end lended the ship's final incidents a gentle air of poetry. Had Greg Hrbek's Sagittarius been just a bit longer, it probably would have been my favorite story in this collection. Science fiction is always best when it stays so close to reality that you don't immediately recognize it as such. This tale of the seeming birth of a mythological beast carries great power not because of the creature's fantastical nature, but because the reprecussions of its existence seem only to effect the scared, but loving family who must cope with them. Sci-fi that is grounded in reality is always most effective. As it stood, however, I found myself admiring most strongly Joseph Epstein's Beyond the Pale. There is an urgent creative force that courses through most artists and writers. Unfortunatly, the only ones who get to actually call themselves artists or writers are those who make it a point to give in to that impulse. Epstein's lead, Allan Berman, is a man who is confronted not only by his own impulse to create, but by the impulse of another as well. The catch is that he is in no position to indulge in these impulses, but must figure out how to deal with them anyway. The embodiment of this tenacious desire is a wonderful character, Gerda Belzner, who is simultaneously obnoxious and unlikable, as well as utterly sympathetic, a neat trick in characterization. Final word: if you enjoy the 'Best American' series, the 2009 edition is as strong as any in the last several years and is well worth your time.

  3. 4 out of 5

    John Turner

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I've said it before. And I'll say it again. I LOVE collections of short stories, whether it be Faulkner, Welty, Cather, Wolfe, Hemingway, O'Henry or whomever. They are little snippets of tightly crafted literature. Not a word wasted. Little glimpses of life just perfect for reading yourself to sleep. Just right for reading in the waiting room of your doctor. Perfect for devouring over a fast food lunch. "The Best American Short Stories" is, well, amongst the best. Insert: snicker. By way of histo I've said it before. And I'll say it again. I LOVE collections of short stories, whether it be Faulkner, Welty, Cather, Wolfe, Hemingway, O'Henry or whomever. They are little snippets of tightly crafted literature. Not a word wasted. Little glimpses of life just perfect for reading yourself to sleep. Just right for reading in the waiting room of your doctor. Perfect for devouring over a fast food lunch. "The Best American Short Stories" is, well, amongst the best. Insert: snicker. By way of history, since 1915, the editors have been annually gathering hundreds (if not thousands) of submissions of short stories published by some of the best contemporary American and Canadian authors in a wide variety American and Canadian magazines, e.g., Ploughshares, Southern Review, The New Yorker, Tin House Press and others. The anthology is the longest running and best-selling series of short fiction in the country. The premise of the anthology starts with a short story editor reading hundreds to thousands of submissions then, after choosing a "guest editor," passing off 120 winnowed selections, from which the guest editor chooses the final 20 short stories for publication, a daunting task. As this year's guest editor, author Alice Sebold, put it, "a necessary crapshoot," she being the final arbiter of who did and who did not make the final cut. Sebold is the author of many books, including best-seller "The Lovely Bones." For me, only two or three stories did not make (my) cut, stories I just did not like. Five stories really stood out, outing a smile on my face as I flipped the page, anxious for the next reading: Beyond the Pale (Joseph Epstein), a story of the author's observations of literary widows and their penchant to live their lives through their famous husband's reputation, "Mrs. Big Wig Author," if you will. Hurricanes Anonymous (Adam Johnson): relates the story of residents of .New Orleans as they relocate to Lake Charles after Hurrucane Katrina in August, 2005, only to be devastated by Hurricane Rita twenty-six days later. Magic Words (Jill McCorkle): McCorkle is the author of five books, including Carolina Moon, and three story collections. She is on the faculty of North Carolina StateUniversity and has taught creative writing at Chapel Hill, Tufts, Harvard, Brandeis and Bennington College. Magic Words has so many twists and turns and dies not end up where you think it will. Ostracon (Alex Rose): Katya, a character based on the life of the author's grandmother, suffers from senile dementia. Her identity had become "transfigured, like something beautiful and mysterious but also shattered and bleached into abstraction." Rose relates his grandmother's escape from Nazi-occupied Germany, her enchanting folk tales and her heartbreaking autobiography. The Peripatetic Coffin (Ethan Rutherford): the fictionalized narration of the tragic crew of the "Hunley," a Civil War submarine referred to as "a hand-cranked death trap." Other renowned authors in this 2009 edition include Annie Proulx, Ron Rash, Daniel Alarcon, Alice Fulton and Kevin Moffett.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bojan Tunguz

    "The Best American Short Stories" is, as they proudly like to point out on the cover, "best, first and best selling" collection of short stories published in the US over the preceding year. The second of these claims is of course entirely subjective, but there is no doubt that this series is one of the most respected and widely used anthologies of contemporary American short fiction. These anthologies give a snapshot of current trends in fiction writing, and are, for better or worse, representat "The Best American Short Stories" is, as they proudly like to point out on the cover, "best, first and best selling" collection of short stories published in the US over the preceding year. The second of these claims is of course entirely subjective, but there is no doubt that this series is one of the most respected and widely used anthologies of contemporary American short fiction. These anthologies give a snapshot of current trends in fiction writing, and are, for better or worse, representative of the writing styles and themes in this genre. The upside is that the stories that are collected here are without exception all written extremely well. On the other hand, sometimes the most interesting and original stories tend to be a bit rough on the edges and not too polished. Such stories almost never make it into a collection such as this one. In the recent years these collections tended to be predominantly filled with the "workshop-style" writing. The exception seemed to be last year's collection, The Best American Short Stories 2008. This collection was so far the only one where I felt that every single story was really, really good. I was hoping that maybe the series had permanently turned a new leaf, but based on this year's collection this doesn't seem to be entirely true. By and large, most of the stories in this collection are really good and interesting. This last point should not, unfortunately, be taken for granted any more when the quality of writing is judged these days. Oftentimes utterly mind numbingly boring stories are praised for their supposed literary merits, and several of those had made it into this collection. For some reason, most of the more boring stories happen to be the longer ones as well, which makes their reading quite tortuous. However, there are many good stories in this collection and their reading was quite rewarding. I will probably continue to read these collections in the upcoming years, and just take what I can get from them. At this point I've probably learned my lesson and I won't expect too much beyond impeccably crafted prose.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Billie Pritchett

    I'm a glutton for punishment with this book series, which I think is in no wise a reflection of its title, or if it is the state of American fiction is only mildly interesting from year to year. Nevertheless, I probably won't stop reading the series. As for this volume, the first story is "The Idiot President," which is also the name of the play a troupe of Peruvian actors perform throughout Peru in the story. The second story "Yurt" is sort of about the semi-private love lives of elementary sch I'm a glutton for punishment with this book series, which I think is in no wise a reflection of its title, or if it is the state of American fiction is only mildly interesting from year to year. Nevertheless, I probably won't stop reading the series. As for this volume, the first story is "The Idiot President," which is also the name of the play a troupe of Peruvian actors perform throughout Peru in the story. The second story "Yurt" is sort of about the semi-private love lives of elementary school teachers. Third is "Rubiaux Rising," about a man trapped in the attic of a New Orleans home when Hurrican Katrina hit; a buck goes to anyone who can diagram the logistics of the man Rubiaux's entrapment, which were beyond me. Then comes "Beyond the Pale," a story about an esoteric Jewish author and his wife who has an obsession with getting him translated into English. Fifth is "A Shadow Table," a peculiar story with Japanese-style decorum set in the time of the American Flappers; you'd have to read it to understand what I mean. The next two stories, "NowTrends" and "The Farms," did not ring my cherries, so they'll go without further comment. The eighth story, however, is beautiful (!), "Sagittarius," a story ostensibly about a centaur baby (really) but thematically about loving one's child or children. Nine is "Hurricanes Anyonymous," about two people trying to get their lives together after Hurricane Katrina. The next four stories I didn't like. But Kevin Moffet's story, which comes after, is called "One Dog Year," and it's a weird envisioning of the time John D. Rockefeller wanted to fly in a plane. Other stories of note are "Them Old Cowboy Songs," "Into the Gorge," and "The Peripatetic Coffin." These were my impressions. Surely anyone else reading this collection will have different opinions, y'know.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mark Gabriel

    As with every year, an underwhelming anthology save for a few gems (I continue to feel as if there is just way too much stories out there for too many journals/mags; I'm of the school of writing less, but writing better). Maybe I'm just bitter because my picks didn't make the cut, but whatever. Highly recommend the Makkai piece, which was just wonderfully wrought. "The Anniversary Trip" manages so much with so little; reminds me just how soft subtle stories can really work. "Sagittarius" was pre As with every year, an underwhelming anthology save for a few gems (I continue to feel as if there is just way too much stories out there for too many journals/mags; I'm of the school of writing less, but writing better). Maybe I'm just bitter because my picks didn't make the cut, but whatever. Highly recommend the Makkai piece, which was just wonderfully wrought. "The Anniversary Trip" manages so much with so little; reminds me just how soft subtle stories can really work. "Sagittarius" was predictable but I gotta give it to the author for his so elegant phrasings. Ethan Rutherford is a guy to watch for in the coming years; his Confederate Army submarine story was not just funny it was written with such great command. This kid's damn good (I say kid though he may be in fact older than me). Alice Fulton's story made sense upon revisiting, and I actually liked it second time around. And I'd be hard-pressed not to recommend all the New Yorker stories (not my personal faves from last year, but great nonetheless), especially Yiyun Li's, who just continues to impress me with her pristine writing and pure plots.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mary Stella

    Generally, this year's stories dealt with tragedy, injustice, and reaching brick walls. Each story seemed to hinge on a difficult decision, urging the main characters to test their moral limits. Many of the stories verged on missing a conclusion - though, that is the era we're in. Many stories, many lives are lead without resolution - this is a time of clif-hangers and uncertainty. This collection reflected that well. While my rating of this book is rather neutral (mostly due to several bland or Generally, this year's stories dealt with tragedy, injustice, and reaching brick walls. Each story seemed to hinge on a difficult decision, urging the main characters to test their moral limits. Many of the stories verged on missing a conclusion - though, that is the era we're in. Many stories, many lives are lead without resolution - this is a time of clif-hangers and uncertainty. This collection reflected that well. While my rating of this book is rather neutral (mostly due to several bland or banal stories in the collection), it was worth it to plow through several mediocre stories to get to the few jewels within. Of those, I most appreciated "Rubiaux Rising" - Steve de Jarnatt, "Sagittarius" - Greg Hrbek, "Beyond the Pale" - Joseph Epstein, "NowTrends" - Karl Taro Greenfield, "The Briefcase" - Rebecca Makkai, and "Into The Gorge" - Ron Rash.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    On finishing this, I realized why I am always slow to pick up every year's BA - they're exhausting (also why I am terrified of my phone-book sized Pushcart collections). This edition has the usual hits-and-misses, and I deducted a star for a) Sebold's obnoxious introduction about awards and her acquiescing in guest editing, and b) all the stories that really stood out were writers I expected to stand out (McCorkle, Moffett, Proulx) and there were only a few who I wanted to read more of (Bynum, d On finishing this, I realized why I am always slow to pick up every year's BA - they're exhausting (also why I am terrified of my phone-book sized Pushcart collections). This edition has the usual hits-and-misses, and I deducted a star for a) Sebold's obnoxious introduction about awards and her acquiescing in guest editing, and b) all the stories that really stood out were writers I expected to stand out (McCorkle, Moffett, Proulx) and there were only a few who I wanted to read more of (Bynum, de Jarnatt, Hrbek, Makkai). Alice Fulton's story made me crazy in both wonderful and terrible ways. Overall, always a worthwhile read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mollie

    Not one of the stronger collections, I didn't think. Some years I devour every single story without thinking about anything else. This year, not so much. I am working on my skills of just stopping reading something when I'm not enjoying it, and I probably did that with five or six of the stories in here. And then I had read a bunch in the New Yorker already, so there were probably only a handful of new stories that I really enjoyed in this on. On a sidenote, can someone explain to me why it seems Not one of the stronger collections, I didn't think. Some years I devour every single story without thinking about anything else. This year, not so much. I am working on my skills of just stopping reading something when I'm not enjoying it, and I probably did that with five or six of the stories in here. And then I had read a bunch in the New Yorker already, so there were probably only a handful of new stories that I really enjoyed in this on. On a sidenote, can someone explain to me why it seems there this new common tendency to use centaurs in stories and novels all the time these days? It was (sort of) interesting once, but I feel like it's a not so brilliant repeating theme.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    I really dug Alice Fulton's short story The Shadow Table. Annie Proulx did not fail to deliver an inhabitable universe that is not my own with her apt detail and voice. Kudos to Greg Hrbek for a very brave story. Hurricanes Anonymous by Adam Johnson also gets a tip of the hat. These stories stood out, though I did enjoy most of them. It is interesting to see the events, the politics, and the fears of our contemporary situation getting played out in fiction as happens in these annual compilations I really dug Alice Fulton's short story The Shadow Table. Annie Proulx did not fail to deliver an inhabitable universe that is not my own with her apt detail and voice. Kudos to Greg Hrbek for a very brave story. Hurricanes Anonymous by Adam Johnson also gets a tip of the hat. These stories stood out, though I did enjoy most of them. It is interesting to see the events, the politics, and the fears of our contemporary situation getting played out in fiction as happens in these annual compilations. Some of these stories would be terrific supplements to history buffs.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Marisa

    There were many stories that I really loved, and make me want to go find other things by those writers; and then there are some duds. There's something for everyone though, and overall I enjoyed it more than not. Sagittarius (Greg Hrbek), Them Old Cowboy Songs (Annie Proulx), The Briefcase (Rebecca Makkai), The Anniversary Trip (Victoria Lancelotta), and Ostracon (Alex Rose) were among my favorites. Now I'm thinking back and remembering that I liked a lot more of the stories than I am giving cre There were many stories that I really loved, and make me want to go find other things by those writers; and then there are some duds. There's something for everyone though, and overall I enjoyed it more than not. Sagittarius (Greg Hrbek), Them Old Cowboy Songs (Annie Proulx), The Briefcase (Rebecca Makkai), The Anniversary Trip (Victoria Lancelotta), and Ostracon (Alex Rose) were among my favorites. Now I'm thinking back and remembering that I liked a lot more of the stories than I am giving credit for...

  12. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This is one of the best BASS in recent years. My favorites from this excellent collection are Alice Fulton's "A Shadow Table" and Annie Proulx's "Them Old Cowboy Songs." With so many fine stories being written these days, I don't envy Alice Seybold having to select twenty. Sarah Shun-lien Bynum's "Yurt" is also a standout. This is one of the best BASS in recent years. My favorites from this excellent collection are Alice Fulton's "A Shadow Table" and Annie Proulx's "Them Old Cowboy Songs." With so many fine stories being written these days, I don't envy Alice Seybold having to select twenty. Sarah Shun-lien Bynum's "Yurt" is also a standout.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Favorites: Yurt by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum Rubiaux Rising by Steve de Jarnatt A Shadow Table by Alice Fulton Sagittarius by Greg Hrbek Hurricanes Anonymous by Adam Johnson The Anniversary Trip by Victoria Lancelotta The Briefcase by Rebecca Makkai Modulation by Richard Powers Into The Gorge by Ron Rash

  14. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    This collection was odd, but I think I only say so because of my personal preference for subtlety and lack of description in stories. The only story I completely disliked in the collection was Epstein's "Beyond the Pale" (due to an excess of summary and lack of character) and my favorite was Rose's "Ostracon." This collection was odd, but I think I only say so because of my personal preference for subtlety and lack of description in stories. The only story I completely disliked in the collection was Epstein's "Beyond the Pale" (due to an excess of summary and lack of character) and my favorite was Rose's "Ostracon."

  15. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Clausen

    I finished about five of the short stories before I had to turn it back into the library. For a "Best of" series the short stories were very uneven. For those of you looking for great short stories, you might want to consider "The Year's Best SF" instead. Some of the stories in that series will knock your socks off. I finished about five of the short stories before I had to turn it back into the library. For a "Best of" series the short stories were very uneven. For those of you looking for great short stories, you might want to consider "The Year's Best SF" instead. Some of the stories in that series will knock your socks off.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I especially like short stories for the opportunity to discover new (to me) authors, to sample a bit of their work, and this collection was no exception.  While I didn’t like all 20 stories in The Best American Short Stories 2009, I liked many more than I disliked.  For the purposes of this review, I’ll highlight nine of my favorites and several authors well worth watching.  Steve De Jarnatt’s “Rubiaux Rising,” about a drug-addicted veteran trapped in an attic during Hurricane Katrina, remains m I especially like short stories for the opportunity to discover new (to me) authors, to sample a bit of their work, and this collection was no exception.  While I didn’t like all 20 stories in The Best American Short Stories 2009, I liked many more than I disliked.  For the purposes of this review, I’ll highlight nine of my favorites and several authors well worth watching.  Steve De Jarnatt’s “Rubiaux Rising,” about a drug-addicted veteran trapped in an attic during Hurricane Katrina, remains my favorite of this collection. “In the attic Rubiaux watches light pour in – dancing dust around, slow and celestial like the Milky Way. His ears improve with a crack-jaw yawn. What’s that high-pitched rushing? Those low knocking sounds like bowling heard outside the alley. And that slow, mean rumble. What is coming this way? A shock wave hits the house like a dozen Peterbilts crashing one after another into the frame. Beams groan, the whole foundation nearly quaking off its shoulder, nails and screws strain to hold their grip, eeking like mice as wood and metal mad grapple to hold their forced embrace. A new light shines at the far window, painting the ceiling with golden ripples. Reflection. Water. Water is coming. Water is here.” Hurricane Katrina also makes an appearance, along with Hurricane Rita 26 days later, in Adam Johnson’s tension-filled and sad story, “Hurricanes Anonymous,” which I also liked.  (In the Contributors’ Notes, which I often enjoy just as much as the stories for the insights they provide, Johnson is an eerie Nostradamus.  He says, “I lived in Lake Charles, Louisiana for three years …. A mixture of lush wetlands and petrochemical plants, the area was both a rare ecological treasure and an apocalypse in progress.”)   Sarah Shun-Lien Bynam was just named one of The New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 writers, and her story “Yurt,” focusing on the dynamics and inner-lives of a group of middle school teachers (you’ll never think of your 6th grade teacher the same way again) was one of my favorites in this collection.  It had me from the first sentence. “A year ago, Ms. Duffy, the fifth-grade English and history teacher, had come very close to losing it, what with her homeroom being right next to the construction site for the new computer lab, and her attempts to excise the Aztecs from the curriculum being thwarted, and her ill-advised affair with Mr. Polidori coming to an end.” Joseph Epstein’s story “Beyond the Pale” brings the reader into the lives of two writers, Arnold Berman and Zalman Belzner, and how their encounter leads to a complicated (and dark) triangulation with Mr. Belzner’s wife, Gerda.  The details that Epstein gives us in bringing Gerda’s character to life are sharp and vivid, making her seem as real to the reader as if she jumped out from the page. “A Shadow Table” is part of author Alice Fulton’s much-acclaimed debut novel, The Nightingales of Troy, which chronicles a family over the span of a century. It is ten linked stories, but “A Shadow Table,” about a family’s memorial to their daughter, more than ably stands on its own as it tells the story of a couple, their respective families’ losses and those among them. Eleanor Henderson is an author I will be looking for more of, as I loved her story “The Farms.” Set in the early 1990s in a hardscrabble Florida apartment complex, the young narrator struggles to befriend others with similar heartache while encountering the reality of the stigma surrounding her brother’s death from AIDS, due to a blood transfusion.   “I was the only one who wanted to talk about Andrew.  Krista, our old neighbors, my teachers, even my parents – everyone tripped past his name, hopped over it in coded silence.  Listening to the sternness in Donatella’s voice, I wondered now if our new neighbors might be doing the same thing, if we were what they were talking about on their balconies in voices too low for me to hear, and if that was why they refused to meet my eyes before ducking into their cars.” Perhaps it is because this one hits home for me, but “The Farms” is a powerful story and one of the very best in this collection. “Sagittarius” will resonate with – and leave breathless – any parent who has known what it means to have a child who is different. In Greg Hrbek’s story, two parents struggle with the physical and emotional reality of having a young child who is, inexplicably, half human and half horse. From the doctors’ recommendations that will change the essence of who the child is to the impact that caring for their son has on their other child, Greg Hrbek takes the reader on enough of a roller-coaster ride to fill a novel.  Victoria Lancelotta is an author who is somewhat familiar to me (I bought her short story collection Here in the World: Thirteen Stories from … someplace, maybe a used bookstore or a yard sale.)  Since it’s still on my TBR bookshelves, I hadn’t read any of her work until “The Anniversary Trip,” a story about Monica and Martin, visiting Paris with Martin’s mother following the death of his father. The anniversary becomes one filled with the realization of loss, which becomes all too apparent in the course of the trip. I read Jill McCorkle’s The Cheer Leader a million years ago (it was published in 1984 and I remember checking it out at the library where I worked after school). While I don’t remember much about the book, I do remember that I really liked McCorkle’s writing.  So when I saw that this collection had a Jill McCorkle story, I was thrilled to rediscover her writing.  “Magic Words,” a contemporary story about a woman having an affair with a younger coworker and the intersection of lives young and old on her way to meet him, didn’t disappoint. Loss, sadness, and uncertainty are predominant themes in this often dark collection of stories.  I’m not sure if that is coincidental – a reflection of recent years and the economic gloom and doom environment – or whether this reflects the perspective and preferences of the collection’s Guest Editor Alice Sebold (no stranger to dark themes in literature herself!)  As I said, not all the stories in The Best American Short Stories 2009 are winners, and they’re not always uplifting, but these nine selections are among the most finely crafted pieces of writing very much worth reading.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tiny Pants

    I was teetering between two stars ("it was ok") and three stars ("I liked it") on this one, and in the end went with three stars because you know what, I did like it. As much as I've complained about this series in recent years, this was a stronger entry than they've had in a while. Which quite frankly I found surprising, since I wasn't expecting Alice Sebold to be the greatest editor. Does she even write short fiction? And in spite of the success of The Lovely Bones, I've never felt like her ot I was teetering between two stars ("it was ok") and three stars ("I liked it") on this one, and in the end went with three stars because you know what, I did like it. As much as I've complained about this series in recent years, this was a stronger entry than they've had in a while. Which quite frankly I found surprising, since I wasn't expecting Alice Sebold to be the greatest editor. Does she even write short fiction? And in spite of the success of The Lovely Bones, I've never felt like her other works were particularly well-regarded (I'm not even sure if that one was so much well-regarded as widely read. I mean it's for adults and I even read it). What did I like about this one? You know what, there were a couple of stories that actually managed to surprise me, which is really saying something. I've been thinking about this a lot lately -- why is it I can spend endless hours reading teen series, but struggle to make it through any adult fiction? And it's because of predictability. I know -- most people reading this will immediately think I'm saying "I like the predictability of teen series," but quite the opposite. The continuous, book-to-book, soap opera-style plots mean teen series' plot arcs have to go on forever. Things hardly ever get settled, or are in any way final. In contrast, whenever I'm in a bookstore and pick up a novel that's meant for an adult audience (whether literary or more popular fiction), all I have to do is read the dust jacket to be like, "yup, their marriage will be tested but they'll stay together" or "struggling through the brother's illness will help them learn the true meaning of family." You can just see straight through these things from page one, and if there's one thing I hate, it's spoilers. Ergo, nine times out of ten, I just can't do it. And besides, the world is depressing enough without having to read about people's difficult marriages or life-threatening illnesses. Who can blame me for wanting to escape into high school soap operas? But I digress: The point of all of the above was that I liked that there were stories in here that actually did manage to defy the conventions of literary fiction (e.g. pets must die, at least one person gets cancer, children are abandoned, etc.). My favorite piece in the collection was "Magic Words" by Jill McCorkle, which really had me on the edge of my seat, and which was a wonderfully layered piece -- the shallowness implied by the title is sort of borne out in all of the different characters' behaviors, with the words they really want to use stuck inside their heads. I wouldn't say I liked but I would say I was pleasantly surprised by the piece by Greg Hrbek, and I definitely liked the piece by Alice Fulton. Probably my second-place favorite though was the piece by Richard Powers, which was just terrific. Really different from anything else, and reminded me in the best way of William Gibson. What didn't I like? Well, an over-reliance on the New Yorker meant I'd read a bunch of the stories before -- and since I haven't felt like the New Yorker has had decent short fiction in the last couple years (did they change editors or something?) it wasn't like these were pieces I was eager to re-read. "Yurt" by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum was an exception, but the Annie Proulx entry was a struggle the first time I around and I had to give up on the second read. I often weary of writing that takes place in the west, but this one was especially wearying. And in the contributors' notes she talks about how its like oh, people don't talk about the aspects of settling that were hard or people who didn't make it, which made me want to wring her neck and yell, "Are you crazy?!? That's all any lit fic writer would ever talk about!" Overall though, the likes outweighed the dislikes, so I went for three stars over the two.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Amy Armstrong

    So not my thing, and maybe I'm in a ridiculously picky mood, but I wasn't impressed by anything I read in here. I got kind of excited as I moved toward the end of the collection and spotted stories by Jill McCorkle and Annie Proulx. I was also impressed by Alex Rose's writing in his story, "Ostracon" from Ploughshares, but none of the stories grabbed me the way stories from other collections have. As I read through this collection, I started wondering, Have I been corrupted by reading all that YA So not my thing, and maybe I'm in a ridiculously picky mood, but I wasn't impressed by anything I read in here. I got kind of excited as I moved toward the end of the collection and spotted stories by Jill McCorkle and Annie Proulx. I was also impressed by Alex Rose's writing in his story, "Ostracon" from Ploughshares, but none of the stories grabbed me the way stories from other collections have. As I read through this collection, I started wondering, Have I been corrupted by reading all that YA fiction? Do I hate adult short stories now? Then, I realized, that's not true at all. Some of my favorite pieces of writing are short stories. Here are some collections that I recommend over these:

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mythili

    A struggling South American actor who never manages to leave his country as he planned; a public teacher reckoning with her late 20s; an Iraq veteran trapped in Hurricane Katrina; and an aging John D. Rockefeller are just some of the characters who populate this commanding volume. Many of the stories in this year’s collection focus on questions of shifting communities: “The Farms,” for example, chronicles one rainy afternoon when a girl who finds herself quietly confronting questions of economic class A struggling South American actor who never manages to leave his country as he planned; a public teacher reckoning with her late 20s; an Iraq veteran trapped in Hurricane Katrina; and an aging John D. Rockefeller are just some of the characters who populate this commanding volume. Many of the stories in this year’s collection focus on questions of shifting communities: “The Farms,” for example, chronicles one rainy afternoon when a girl who finds herself quietly confronting questions of economic class while babysitting the neighbors. Her parents have depleted their family savings attempting to save her dying brother, and the new neighborhood to which her family has moved is much less affluent. “Magic Words,” in which a housewife contemplating an affair unexpectedly meets a troubled neighborhood teen, and “A Man Like Him,” in which a Chinese man grows obsessed with the case of another local man accused of adultery are two more stories where questions of family and community figure prominently. There are two stories about daunting mother-in-laws (“Shadow Dinner” and “The Anniversary Trip”) and two stories about Hurricane Katrina (“Rubiax Rising” and “Hurricanes Anonymouse”). But fortunately, these stories are ultimately bound not by shared motif but by the singularity of their storytelling. The best of The Best forge utterly fresh paths, and linger with the reader long after their conclusion—stories like “NowTrends,” in which Hung the dissident journalist provides a careless lens into the price of censorship; “Beyond the Pale,” in which a young writer’s reverence for Zalman Belzner, a (fictional) great Yiddish writer takes on a life of its own, and “The Briefcase,” in which the title object initially provides simply a fresh start for an escaped political prisoner but later comes to represent his final shred of humanity. Notable stories by Annie Proulx, Ethan Rutherford, Rosh Rash, and Alice Fulton round out a volume that has earned its, um, "storied" place among the many others of its renowned series.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Timons Esaias

    Okay, yeah, I'm behind in my Best American reading. It took me seven years to get to this one, but (as usual) I greatly enjoyed the excellent writing. (My writing instructor demon makes me point out two grimaces in the anthology, which is fairly good for literary/mainstream; and two phony past tense examples, both by the same author.) Ahem. The stories had the usual wide range, with a refreshingly low incidence of cancer stories. Two of them were historical-figure-POV exercises (John D. Rockefell Okay, yeah, I'm behind in my Best American reading. It took me seven years to get to this one, but (as usual) I greatly enjoyed the excellent writing. (My writing instructor demon makes me point out two grimaces in the anthology, which is fairly good for literary/mainstream; and two phony past tense examples, both by the same author.) Ahem. The stories had the usual wide range, with a refreshingly low incidence of cancer stories. Two of them were historical-figure-POV exercises (John D. Rockefeller, a Hunley crew member), which isn't that common in these collections. "Modulation" by Richard Powers is a Science Fiction story, and I wish I'd written it. More than one is set in the Hurricane Katrina disaster, more than one is set in China. More than a few put the characters in really awkward, or awful, or disturbing, situations. I'd also single out Jill McCorkle's "Magic Words" as especially effective. Bottom line, I'm glad I read every one of these pieces. Strong writing is a joy in itself, and this volume (as usual for this series) is a place to find it. For the writers out there, the stories were 70% third-person, 30% first. On the OSC breakdown, there were 4 Milieu stories, no Idea stories, 9 Character stories, 5 Event stories and two non-stories (just scenes, with no actions or real transformations). Indeed, four or five of the stories that I gave a category are so slight in their action, or so vague in their motivation, that they barely make it. In a couple of cases that's the point of the story. In the rest we have good writing, but the omission of Story.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    It's taken me a while to decide how to rate this book because I wasn't sure whether to rate the compilation choices (that is, Alice Sebold's preferences), rate the compilation holistically (try to somehow synthesize my various reactions), or rate the compilation based on my favorites. I've chosen the latter option, and taken off a star for the stories I didn't care for. There are many 5-star worthy stories in this year's edition, and I most highly recommend Rebecca Makkai's "The Briefcase," Anni It's taken me a while to decide how to rate this book because I wasn't sure whether to rate the compilation choices (that is, Alice Sebold's preferences), rate the compilation holistically (try to somehow synthesize my various reactions), or rate the compilation based on my favorites. I've chosen the latter option, and taken off a star for the stories I didn't care for. There are many 5-star worthy stories in this year's edition, and I most highly recommend Rebecca Makkai's "The Briefcase," Annie Proulx's "Them Old Cowboy Songs," Richard Power's "Modulation," Steve De Jarnatt's "Rubiaux Rising," and Karl Taro Greenfeld's "NowTrends." If one has more time, I also enjoyed the stories by Yiyun Li, Ron Rash, Jill Mccorkle, Kevin Moffett, Greg Hrbek, Danial Alarcon, and Ethan Rutherford. Each story above was superb in its own way, subtly playing either with conventions, language, feelings, or all of the above. I thought Greenfield's story was perhaps the cleverest and Makkai's the most engaging. I was thoroughly underwhelmed by the longest story in the compilation, Adam Johnson's "Hurricanes Anonymous," as I was with Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum's "Yurt." I felt the others were good, but I was surprised they were the "best" we could turn out in an entire year. For the most part, the stories were pleasant to read, and I look forward to next year's collection.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Raul

    I always look forward to this Christmas gift from my son, and the joy of taking time out at the end of the year to read it. As Alice tells us, in these hard times, when publishing houses are folding right and left (because of the economy crash in 1998, as well as reader's changing habits) "highlighting good fiction is more important now than it has ever been." Indeed, as one reads these stories, one can only admire the creativity and skill of the authors, and their dedication in becoming good fi I always look forward to this Christmas gift from my son, and the joy of taking time out at the end of the year to read it. As Alice tells us, in these hard times, when publishing houses are folding right and left (because of the economy crash in 1998, as well as reader's changing habits) "highlighting good fiction is more important now than it has ever been." Indeed, as one reads these stories, one can only admire the creativity and skill of the authors, and their dedication in becoming good fiction writers. My favorites in this issue: (1) Hurricanes Anonymous, by Adam Johnson (from Tin House) a touching story about a UPS driver sorting out his life with his firlfreinds and child in the course of delivering packages in southern Louisiana just after Katrina, and (2) Beyond the Pale, by Joseph Epstein (in Commentary) about the determined widow of a renowned writer of Yiddish literature who recruits an unwilling young man to help her publish & preserve her husband's work, in spite of the ever-diminishing Yiddish readership. They may be fictional tales, but they seem more real than reality.

  23. 4 out of 5

    E.D. Martin

    I'll preface this with two things. One, all of the stories in this collection were extremely well-written. Language, grammar, story consistency, character development - there's a reason that these are the best of the year. Two, I love literary fiction. The more it makes you think, the better. That said, some of these stories I loved, and some I hated. Some moved me, and some I'll never think of again. I realize that the stories are subject to the opinion of the editor, but I would've left about h I'll preface this with two things. One, all of the stories in this collection were extremely well-written. Language, grammar, story consistency, character development - there's a reason that these are the best of the year. Two, I love literary fiction. The more it makes you think, the better. That said, some of these stories I loved, and some I hated. Some moved me, and some I'll never think of again. I realize that the stories are subject to the opinion of the editor, but I would've left about half of them out just because I personally didn't like them. However, as an aspiring writer, it's good to know what's out there, what's being published in the top lit magazines and journals. Even if it's stuff I'd never read or write. One final note: I really appreciated the Chekhovian style of these works, of all of them. You know when finished that life's no better for the characters than when the story started. All the stories are realistic and fatalistic, which is exactly what I like to read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Brandon James

    The collection started with a great introduction by Alice Sebold that really made me want to dig into the stories. I was hoping her introduction and humor had set the tone for the stories chosen for this volume, but it did not. Unfortunately, most of the stories fell flat. There were a handful of standouts. Namwali Serpell - Muzungu Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum - Yurt Ethan Rutherford - The Peripatetic Coffin A couple of the stories dealt with Katrina and the aftermath. Adam Johnson's Hurricanes Anonymous l The collection started with a great introduction by Alice Sebold that really made me want to dig into the stories. I was hoping her introduction and humor had set the tone for the stories chosen for this volume, but it did not. Unfortunately, most of the stories fell flat. There were a handful of standouts. Namwali Serpell - Muzungu Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum - Yurt Ethan Rutherford - The Peripatetic Coffin A couple of the stories dealt with Katrina and the aftermath. Adam Johnson's Hurricanes Anonymous left an impression on me. I was stunned by Stephen De Jarnatt's story Rubiaux Rising. I can not wait to read more by him! The best story in this collection is Them Old Cowboy Songs by Annie Proulx. One of the best short stories I've read in a long time. I have a real affinity to the setting and subject matter and look forward to reading more of her Wyoming stories.

  25. 5 out of 5

    daniel

    all the stories are 2 to 4 stars, i guess, but as a collection: what? this is the state of the short story? what happened to the third person? when did all short stories get dragged to the time-filling, but mind-numbing, middle-place of witty quotidian half-insights? where's the innovation? the imagination? i feel like i'm back in freshmen year attending seminar after seminar on diversity, but... the collection seems to be okay with diversity resting largely with authors' names and world-region of all the stories are 2 to 4 stars, i guess, but as a collection: what? this is the state of the short story? what happened to the third person? when did all short stories get dragged to the time-filling, but mind-numbing, middle-place of witty quotidian half-insights? where's the innovation? the imagination? i feel like i'm back in freshmen year attending seminar after seminar on diversity, but... the collection seems to be okay with diversity resting largely with authors' names and world-region of focus. what about diversity of structure? style? intention? ideas? viewpoint? toward the end of the collection, things got a little more interesting. especially thrilling were richard powers' 'modulation'; kevin moffett's 'one dog year'; ethan rutherford's 'the peripatetic coffin'; and alex rose's 'ostracon'.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Misty

    These are the best American short stories? All I'll say is that reading this collection has made me seriously doubt the short story medium. There were three or four that I liked a lot, or maybe even loved. Reading other reviews of this books reminds me of some of the highlights, although there were many stories I didn't even finish or seemed very heavy handed on topical issues (Katrina, China). I can't help but think that people read these anthologies, because they are interested in the writing These are the best American short stories? All I'll say is that reading this collection has made me seriously doubt the short story medium. There were three or four that I liked a lot, or maybe even loved. Reading other reviews of this books reminds me of some of the highlights, although there were many stories I didn't even finish or seemed very heavy handed on topical issues (Katrina, China). I can't help but think that people read these anthologies, because they are interested in the writing industry, and they want to stay abreast of up and coming writers. But as far as pure pleasure -- that comes few and far between. Guess I better stick with Best American Short Stories of the Century instead.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kawai

    It feels a bit more rangy than some of the previous collections, and many of the stories were more memorable, which isn't always the case with these anthologies, at least for me. But you're always going to get a mixed bag with the 'Best American', so a reader's mileage will vary. Every year some subset of famously anthologized authors are included in this collection, and more often than not I'm left scratching my head at the reasons behind their selection; the 2009 edition seemed more free of th It feels a bit more rangy than some of the previous collections, and many of the stories were more memorable, which isn't always the case with these anthologies, at least for me. But you're always going to get a mixed bag with the 'Best American', so a reader's mileage will vary. Every year some subset of famously anthologized authors are included in this collection, and more often than not I'm left scratching my head at the reasons behind their selection; the 2009 edition seemed more free of that, at least for me as a reader. Thus I found it better than many other years of this series, although I'm not sure I'd mark it among the best (just for comparison purposes for people familiar with this series, the 2007 edition remains one of my favorite).

  28. 5 out of 5

    Trae Stratton

    This collection has 20 stories in it. After suffering through six mind numbingly sad tales I skimmed another two and finally tossed it in the recycle bin. As I recall, this book was the required reading for a writer's workshop I took around when it was published. Were it not for that I am certain I would never have brought it home. This week I pulled it off my to read shelf where it's been sitting for years to read on a trip. What a mistake that was. Yes it is well written. Yes there are some st This collection has 20 stories in it. After suffering through six mind numbingly sad tales I skimmed another two and finally tossed it in the recycle bin. As I recall, this book was the required reading for a writer's workshop I took around when it was published. Were it not for that I am certain I would never have brought it home. This week I pulled it off my to read shelf where it's been sitting for years to read on a trip. What a mistake that was. Yes it is well written. Yes there are some strong, unique voices to be found in it. But isn't America the land of opportunity? Of hopes and dreams? Why does this collection have to be so damn depressing. Do American short stories have to be rife with suffering to be great? I hope not.

  29. 4 out of 5

    M.E.

    As usual with the Best American Series, not everything contained within these pages knocked my socks off. Many of the stories were good enough, and were well enough written, but weren't anything to write home about. I only skiped over one of the stories (the one by the only Pulitzer Prize winner that I know of in the collection). There were a few gems, though, such as Greg Hrbek's "Sagittarius," Adam Johnson's "Hurricanes Anonymous," and Yiyun Li's "A Man Like Him." The collection is worth readi As usual with the Best American Series, not everything contained within these pages knocked my socks off. Many of the stories were good enough, and were well enough written, but weren't anything to write home about. I only skiped over one of the stories (the one by the only Pulitzer Prize winner that I know of in the collection). There were a few gems, though, such as Greg Hrbek's "Sagittarius," Adam Johnson's "Hurricanes Anonymous," and Yiyun Li's "A Man Like Him." The collection is worth reading, just as it always is.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ursula

    This BASS collection was stronger than I anticipated. Among the best were: "The Idiot President" by Daniel Alarcon, "Beyond the Pale" by Joseph Epstein, "Hurricanes Anonymous" by Adam Johnson, "One Dog Year" by Kevin Moffet, "A Man Like Him" by Yiyun Li, "Into the Gorge" by Ron Rash, "The Anniversary Trip" by Victoria Lancelotta and "Muzungu" by Nawali Serpell. Perhaps the Annie Proulx story worked for others--I can never engage much with her work. Her landscapes and cowboy characters always tur This BASS collection was stronger than I anticipated. Among the best were: "The Idiot President" by Daniel Alarcon, "Beyond the Pale" by Joseph Epstein, "Hurricanes Anonymous" by Adam Johnson, "One Dog Year" by Kevin Moffet, "A Man Like Him" by Yiyun Li, "Into the Gorge" by Ron Rash, "The Anniversary Trip" by Victoria Lancelotta and "Muzungu" by Nawali Serpell. Perhaps the Annie Proulx story worked for others--I can never engage much with her work. Her landscapes and cowboy characters always turn me off. Overall this was one of my favorite anthologies in years.

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