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The Best American Short Stories 2003 Paperback – October 10, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Listeners may be tempted to gorge on all seven selections in this abridged audio collection at once, but most of the stories deserve to be savored for their complexity and insight. The star in this tiny galaxy is E.L. Doctorow's "Baby Wilson," read by Wyman, about a mentally unbalanced woman who steals a baby. Wyman delivers a pitch perfect performance; he keeps his tone even and neutral and allows the story to tell itself. Lonnie Farmer faces a different challenge in his narration of Louise Erdrich's "Shamengwa." In this instance, Farmer's distinct, sage-like voice enriches this simplistic tale of a violin. Other stories make the transition to audio less successfully. Mona Simpson reads her own work, "Coins," with a gravelly, and often off-putting, intensity; and reader Will LeBow is an odd match for Emily Ishem Raboteau's "Kavita Through Glass," a complex story of race and gender relations. When all is said and done, however, this audiobook's biggest flaw may be selection. Mosley's poetic introduction leads listeners to expect something more innovative than these carefully balanced choices. While these stories represent many ethnicities and religions (including Chinese, Hindu, Muslim, Filipino, African-American and Native American), political correctness is a controversial measure of literary greatness, and this audio abridgement is bound to spark debates as to how these stories stack up to the 13 that didn't make the transition from print.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

You don't expect to be deeply moved by the foreword to an illustrious annual collection of short stories, yet there it is, Katrina Kenison's eye-misting account of her fourth-grade son going through that secret rite of passage, being brought to tears by a book. That fiction possesses such power remains an astonishment, no matter how many novels or short stories a person reads, a boon that guest editor Walter Mosley celebrates in his beautifully metaphorical introduction, and then the reader is wowed all over again in 20 different ways by the superb stories that follow. Mosley has selected dazzling, unsettling new work by such brilliantly imaginative, compassionate, and artistic storytellers as E. L. Doctorow, Edwidge Danticat, Susan Straight, Mona Simpson, Louise Erdrich, ZZ Packer, Dan Chaon, and Dorothy Allison, whose stories touch on every phase of life and illuminate a rich spectrum of disturbing predicaments, intense feelings, surprising resolutions, and enduring mysteries. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Best American
  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company; 2003 edition (October 10, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618197338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618197330
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,149,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By cs211 on December 7, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I don't think you can go wrong reading either the Best American or the O. Henry short story anthologies; I read both each year. It's somewhat surprising that they are not more popular, since they expose the reader to a wide variety of the best writers and writings, and since short stories can be easily fit into the busiest of lifestyles, especially plane and train rides.
Having now read both 2003 editions, I would give the edge to this year's Best American anthology. The collection of stories that guest editor Walter Mosley has chosen are, in general, more readable, more entertaining, and cover a broader range of human emotions, subject matter, and genres. I would also rate the 2003 Best American anthology as a better-than-average or even a vintage year.
I especially enjoyed the two "genre" stories included, a horror story and a science fiction story. Each is memorable not because of the aspects of their plots that classify them in their genre, but for what they reveal about human nature. Dan Chaon's "The Bees" shows the dangers of keeping secrets in an attempt to escape the past, and Ryan Harty's "Why the Sky Turns Red When the Sun Goes Down" contains a bizarrely fascinating plot element (a robotic child for couples unable to conceive their own), but what it actually illustrates is the difficult decisions parents make about their children, the immense power they have over them, and the changing relationships when a couple becomes a threesome by having a child.
Other highlights: Susan Straight's "Mines", which is a stark, realistic portrayal of the tough choices facing people on both sides of the U.S.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
I've been a fan of Best American for years. This one is particularly great--I love Walter Mosley's choices. Mona Simpson's "Coins" is sharply characterized through a unique and memorable voice. Louise Erdrich's "Shamengwa," full of haunting music, has a quiet, beautiful ending. And Ryan Harty's "Why the Sky Turns Red When the Sun Goes Down," a heartbreaking story about a man faced with a choice between his wife and his very human (but technologically imperfect) android son, is like nothing I've ever read before--so terrific I had to go out and buy Harty's collection, "Bring Me Your Saddest Arizona," which was a knockout too. (Noticed that Tin House made the strongest showing here, with three stories selected. Guess what cool magazine I'll be subscribing to this year?) What a pleasure to read so much outstanding fiction. Very glad to see the short story thriving.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Joe Sherry on June 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
Having never read one of the "Best American Short Stories" collections, I have no way to judge this latest edition to past efforts. The only thing I can speak to is how I felt about the stories contained in this collection and how good I think they are. There are some very fine stories in this collection with one in particular that I just loved.
Louise Erdrich has long been my favorite novelist, but I was still nervous about what she would make from the short story format. "Shamengwa" is a moving story which revolves around a violin and the effect it has had, in various ways, on the lives of several members of a community. Anthony Doerr has one of the better stories in the collection, "The Shell Collector". With such a deceptively simple title, one would not expect such raw power and an interesting story about a man who lives alone but has gained worldwide attention because of the poison in one particular kind of shell. Another standout is Ryan Harty's "Why the Sky Turns Red when the Sun Goes Down", a story of a family with a robotic son (literally, the boy is a robot, or, perhaps an android). This is a touching story.
The best story in the collection, and then one that blew me away is Dan Chaon's "The Bees". This one was completely unexpected and shocking. While this one would probably fall into the category of "horror", don't let that mislead you. This one starts out easy, just identifying a man and his family and we start to learn about his past. He wasn't a good man during his first marriage and he deeply regrets it. But as the story continues and we get snippets of revelation, the tension grows and so does this air of creepiness that I got while I was reading it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tsila Sofer Elguez on October 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
This delicious short stories collection has taken me a long time to read. Not because the stories were boring or bad but since every story was so condensed, rich and powerful I could not easily part from a certain state of mind and place and move on the next story.
I try to think what are the similar features of these 2003 stories and what can they say about our time...these are very different subjects, characters and places but maybe I could say that the stories discuss a self growth of some sort. Be it a teenager boy having his first sexual encounter with a demonically bewitching mechanically doll or a person reflecting how his life has developed from a certain event as a Chinese delivery boy in the streets of New York -- but off course I guess this is a too easy generalization that can be said of any story whatsoever.
"Why the sky turns red when the sun goes down" by Ryan Harty is a good example of the stories ability to emotionally stir you up and touch an issue very relevant for parents everywhere, maybe this is what made this story so special for me. The story starts out as a very ordinary family crisis tale. The father learns that something happened to his boy and goes out to fetch him. The turning point comes when the boy is seen lying down with his hand thrown a few yards away from his body. Slowly you realize that this is a mechanical child and prepare yourself for some science fiction descriptions, which do not arrive. Apart from the very central "mechanical boy" fact this is a very real story in all its levels, with nothing "modern" or alienated about it. By the end of the story I remained with the strong feeling that mechanical or not, the parents are facing the same questions parents everywhere are asking themselves and mainly "are we doing the right thing".
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