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The Best American Short Stories 1990 Paperback – November 7, 1990

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Twenty tales eyeball fragile childhoods, crumbling marriages, illness and despair, and many splendidly realize characterization, mood and voice in the space of a few pages. C. D. Godshalk's inner-city drug dealer yearns to be a prep-school student, while Patricia Henley's young narrator unwillingly forgives her mother, whose alcoholism scatters the narrator and her siblings into foster homes and institutions. Dennis McFarland's protagonist must watch his best buddy die of AIDS, and an older colleague's disintegration compels Richard Bausch's generally noncontemplative middle-aged priest to obsess about his own health. Joan Wickersham depicts a wife who bonds with her Brooklyn roommates to the exclusion of her out-of-town hubbie, and Elizabeth Tallent demonstrates how a happily remarried man can begrudge his ex-wife the company of their son. Set during the decline of the Hapsburg empire, Steven Millhauser's story of a Jewish illusionist who may have sold his soul to the devil for the gift of magic is foil to the volume's prevailing themes of modern angst. Slighter efforts by Madison Smartt Bell, Siri Hustvedt, Pamela Houston and Joy Williams also appear here, as does an introduction by Ford ( Rock Springs ) who explains his choice of two stories each by Bausch and Alice Munro and six from the New Yorker.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

For whatever reason, co-editor Ford claims he made no effort to balance the number of male authors against female or stories from small magazines against those from larger ones or "to include some percentage of gays or Chicanos or African Americans or Jews." The result is predictable: most of these authors are celebrities, and of the 20 stories, six are from The New Yorker alone. Overall, one wishes there had been more of the generous goofball spirit of Padgett Powell's "Typical," which is about a deadbeat who keeps his girlfriends' numbers on candy wrappers on the floor of his truck. ("One flies out, so what? More candy, more wrappers at the store.") There is nothing wrong with this collection, just nothing especially wild or exciting or different about it.
- David Kirby, Florida State Univ., Tallahassee
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Best American Short Stories
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (November 7, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039551617X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395516171
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,091,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
This did not particularly grab me at first. Most of the stories in this collection seem to focus on mundane situations, many of them unhappy (illness, death, and loneliness are common themes). Of course there is nothing wrong with dealing with these subjects; in fact it is commendable to do so, given that your major outlets of narrative entertainment rarely do.

Edward Allen checks in with a piece of faux journalism, a careful description of a typical suburban brook. Madison S. Bell's story "Finding Natasha" is a fairly unconvincing portrait of a recovered addict searching for an ex-love on the streets of NYC. Pam Houston has a witty, interesting story, a first person account of woman's dangerous attraction to a macho guy who does things his own way. Siri Hustedt's "Mr. Morning" was the most mysterious piece, and my favorite. In it, a graduate student gets involved in a bizarre research project in which an old fellow gives her objects which once belonged to a girl and asks her to relate her insights about them. Dennis McFarland's piece about a friend of the narration dying of AIDS is sensitive and direct. Steven Millhauser contributes a clever piece about a mysterious magician in 19th century Vienna. Lorrie Moore's "You're Ugly Too" is a good look at an aging, single woman's bitterness toward men. Alice Munro contributes two well-crafted stories about the ups and downs of middle-aged women. Padgett Powell gives us a first-person rant by a typical white trash bozo. Lore Segal presents an intriguing piece about an ESL class and a device straight out of J.G. Ballard. Elizabeth Tallent's "Prowler" was a good description of a divorced couple trying to deal with each other again as the man withholds their son from his supposedly unstable mother.

I guess I did kind of like this book after all.
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