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The Best American Short Stories 2000 Hardcover – October 19, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

When a great annual collection comes out, it's hard to know the reason why. Was there a bumper crop of high-quality stories, or was this year's guest editor especially gifted at winnowing out the good ones? Either way, the 2000 edition of The Best American Short Stories is a standout in a series that can be uneven. Its editor, E.L. Doctorow, seems to have a fondness for the "what if?" story, the kind of tale that posits an imagination-prodding question and then attempts to answer it. Nathan Englander's "The Gilgul of Park Avenue" asks: What if a WASPy financial analyst, riding in a cab one day, discovers to his surprise that he is irrevocably Jewish? In "The Ordinary Son," Ron Carlson asks: What if you are the only average person in a family of certifiable geniuses? And Allan Gurganus's "He's at the Office" asks: What if the quintessential postwar American working man were forced to retire? This last story is narrated by the man's grown son, who at the story's opening takes his dad for a walk. Though it's the present day, the father is still dressed in his full 1950s businessman regalia, including camel-hair overcoat and felt hat. The two walk by a teenager. "The boy smiled. 'Way bad look on you, guy.'"
My father, seeking interpretation, stared at me. I simply shook my head no. I could not explain Dad to himself in terms of tidal fashion trends. All I said was "I think he likes you."
The exchange typifies the writing showcased in this anthology: in these stories, again and again, we find a breakdown of human communication that is sprightly, humorous, and devastatingly complete. A few more of the terrific stories featured herein: Amy Bloom's "The Story," a goofy metafiction about a villainous divorcee; Geoffrey Becker's "Black Elvis," which tells of, well, a black Elvis; and Jhumpa Lahiri's "The Third and Final Continent," a story of an Indian man who moves to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Like the collection itself, Lahiri's story amasses a lovely, funny mood as it goes along. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

In an anthology that once again lives up to its title, guest editor Doctorow presents an eclectic mix of 21 stunning stories by writers of varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Each short fiction conjures up its own atmospheric world; most provide memorable glimpses deep into the souls of its characters. Five of the selections hail from the New Yorker, three from Story, two each from Harper's magazine, the Atlantic Monthly and Ploughshares. In his introduction, Doctorow quotes Frank O'Connor: "What makes the short story a distinct literary form is 'its intense awareness of human loneliness,'" a quality that applies to many of these tales. The protagonist of Amy Bloom's "The Story," bitter at having lost a baby and a husband while her new neighbor has an adorable daughter and a lover, callously destroys the "guilty" woman's life. Veteran mystery writer Walter Mosley tells in "The Fly" of a young black man unjustly accused of sexual harassment after only a few days on the job at a Wall Street firm. "Call If You Need Me," a newly unearthed story by the late Raymond Carver, is a terse, understated tale of the dissolution of a marriage. The pi?ce de r?sistance is by Wyoming-based writer Annie Proulx, "People in Hell Just Want a Drink of Water," the tale of a brain-damaged young man who suffers rough frontier justice. Seen by neighbors as an example of bad genetics, he is "culled from the herd," so to speak. Other outstanding contributions are "Black Elvis" by Geoffrey Becker, "Third and Final Continent" by Jhumpa Lahiri and Allan Gurganus's "He's at the Office." The standards are high, and all of the stories meet them, in a sterling collection. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Series: Best American Short Stories
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin; First Edition edition (October 19, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395926874
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395926871
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,133,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

JOHN EDGAR WIDEMAN is the author of more than twenty works of fiction and nonfiction, including the award-winning Brothers and Keepers, Philadelphia Fire, and most recently the story collection God's Gym. He is the recipient of two PEN/ Faulkner Awards and has been nominated for the National Book Award. He teaches at Brown University.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By J. G. Hancock on November 19, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Every November, I buy this anthology, several others, and two cases of beaujolais nouveau. Like the wine, the anthology is never bad, sometimes outstanding, but rarely mediocre. This year's book leans toward the mediocre, I think. Though it contains several excellent stories (Gautreaux, Gurganus, Ha Hin, ZZ Packer, and Annie Proulx), it also contains several that are closer to vignettes or character studies than actual stories, and one or two that are good stories but certainly not "the best". If this was an average vintage, I'd rank the 1997 (guest-edited by Annie Proulx) and 1999 (guest-edited by Any Tan) as the two latest outstanding vintages. In her foreward, Katrina Kenison says E.L. Doctorow was in the middle of a book tour as he read the submissions--perhaps that partly explains why the "O. Henry Awards" and "Best Short Stories from the South" collections this year, in my opinion, were better selected. Recommended, but not in the upper 33% of this anthology in the past 15 years. Then again, like wine, opinions vary--how else can you explain that the same wine store I visit has three brands of retsina?
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Chester Morrison on February 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
I disagree with many of the reviewers. This is an above average volume. With the exception of a couple of stories, I found the rest all highly readable and some of them truly outstanding. Ron Carlson, Allan Gurganus and Annie Prolux's pieces are gems. Carlson's The Ordinary Son reads like Salinger's the Glass Family, a surreal journey the keeps you turning pages. I was disappointed when it ended. He's At The Office is one of the best short stories I have read in a long time, absolutely engrossing from the begining to end and tragic without the slightest hint of sentimentality. Hard to do. Prolux piece is from her latest collection which has some great stories in it, but this one is a killer. The rest all fall slightly below these in my opinion but they are all good reads without a great deal of blather. Worth the price of admission.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
I love the "Best American Short Stories" annual collections - if nothing else they let you catch up on all those issues of The New Yorker, Harpers, Atlantic, etc. you didn't buy! The quality of any given year, though, depends both on how good the material was and who the editor is - this year it's E.L. Doctorow and he does a great job (in terms of quality, sequencing, variety of styles - even the short introduction is a nice read). If there's a flaw it's an overreliance on well-established authors (Amy Bloom, Walter Mosley, Jhumpa Lahiri, even Raymond Carver(!)) - I don't know if all these are really up to snuff, but the overall quality is right up there and you can't beat the price. Reader Alert: In my humble opinion, the two best stories appears towards the end: ZZ Packer's "Brownies" - a parable about race and growing-up that's a bit reminicent of, dare I say, Ralph Ellison. And Ha Jin's "The Bridegroom" - a thought provocing morality play about politics of all types. Not to be missed!
A bonus in the authors' notes appendix lets the authors comment on their stories or writing in general.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By R. Rodgers on October 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
This years "Americas Best Short Stories" is an interesting mix of humor, wit and drama. While many books of this series in the past have had a "hit or miss" quality, every story in this book has, at its core, strong charachters and a believable narrative. Among my favorites would be "The Beautiful Days" aboout a young man who comes to grips with his own vision of self, and how it can change due to the manipulations of others and "Black Elvis", an interesting short that comes to life with vivid charachterization and realistic dialouge. If you are looking for a variety of quality short fiction, you can't go wrong with this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mike Emery on September 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
BASS has its ups and downs, since the senior editor shifts every year. Editor Doctorow offers a balanced and canny selection of stories published in 1999. Best news: the Bill Buford-inspired style of "dirty realism" (stories about the grungy underbelly of the world) is starting to fade. Still, these authors aren't all sweetness and light; witness Junot Diaz's "Nilda" (The New Yorker), whose bystander narrator can do nothing to help a woman whose life is spinning out of control. In fact, few stories here have characters living with much control--if the protagonist has any control, it's usually due to bullying (as with Amy Bloom's funny "The Story" [Story magazine, no longer published]). Percival Everett's "The Fix" (New York Stories) is a clever fantasy about a man who can make any broken thing work--a talent that backfires on him. Kathleen Hill's "The Anointed" (DoubleTake) offers a touching view of childhood. Annie Proulx's Wyoming story, "People in Hell Just Want a Drink of Water" (GQ), has one of the best last lines I've read in some time. Jhumpa Lahiri's "The Third and Final Continent" (The New Yorker) reminded me of Flannery O'Connor, with its grotesque characters at the edge of existence. Doctorow offers an erudite introduction; there's no question he's read a great deal and absorbed it all. Katrina Kenison is a heroine of American letters: she reads upwards of 3000 stories annually to cut the list to 120 for the guest editor. Getting the new BASS anthology is a highlight of my year; this series is a mirror for contemporary life (sometimes in a bathroom, sometimes in a funhouse).
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