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The Best American Short Stories 2004 (The Best American Series) Paperback – October 14, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 462 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin; Later Printing edition (October 14, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618197354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618197354
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #935,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Moore takes a tried and true tack in this current edition of the popular series, choosing solid stories that rely more on careful character development and seamless writing than on inventiveness or stylistic flash. The results are occasionally stodgy, but there are plenty of satisfying entries, if few startling ones. Family relations are a recurring theme, and two stories of note unearth family ghosts. In John Edgar Wideman's "What We Cannot Speak About We Must Pass Over in Silence," a man is enmeshed in the life of his deceased friend's jailed son; in Trudy Lewis's "Limestone Diner," a grandmother comes to terms with her past through the tragic accident of a local girl. Most stories are firmly rooted in the U.S., but a few roam cautiously afield. In "The Tutor," set in India, Nell Freudenberger explores the dynamics of an expatriate father and daughter relationship; "Mirror Studies" by Mary Yukari Waters takes place in Japan and interestingly weaves in monkey studies. The selection favors well-known writers, including Alice Munro, Annie Proulx and John Updike, and some readers may wish for a more varied lineup—the New Yorker is the source of eight of the 20 entries—but there's no arguing with the power of most of these offerings by the heavy hitters of the contemporary canon.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In her introduction to this gem among annual story anthologies, Moore says the story is the "Napoleon of the narrative world," a "writer's intimate response to a world (as opposed to a novelist's long creation of a world)." Of her selections, she notes "their imaginative sources . . . seemed not casual but from the deep center of a witnessing life and a thoughtful mind." These stories challenge us to grasp the lives they figure and to reckon with their implications, the scope of that necessary effort especially palpable in the exceptional longer stories by Stuart Dybek ("Breasts") and Alice Munro ("Runaway") but visible throughout. The narrator of Sherman Alexie's "What You Pawn I Will Redeem," homeless for six years, seems to spin ceaselessly away from redemption, but in a pawn-shop window glimpses his grandmother's decades long-lost regalia, with its hidden yellow bead, the family signature, and a part of his identity, soon to be reclaimed. James O'Laughlin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
The 2004 Best American Short Stories collection, edited by Lorrie Moore, is the fattest BASS anthology yet. With stories by Sherman Alexie, T.C. Boyle, Deborah Eisenberg, Paula Fox, Jill McCorkle, Alice Munro, Annie Proulx, John Edgar Wideman, and John Updike, among others, the collection features a wide range of writers, most well known. Many stories come from The New Yorker (eight), a couple from Harper's, but the rest were originally published in some of the country's best, relatively small literary journals: Tin House, Granta, The Missouri Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and Zyzzyva.

Sherman Alexie's "What You Pawn I Will Redeem" follows a homeless Native American man living spreading good will and fortune among his destitute friends, none of whom have much hope except in the moment of a brief celebration. Deborah Eisenberg's "Some Other, Better Otto" traces the psychological crisis of a gay man whose relationship with his partner is the only functional one in an otherwise dysfunctional family. In "Runaway", Alice Munro portrays two lonely women as they try to find strength in lies and fantasy, even as a harsher reality awaits each. Mary Yukari Waters's "Mirror Studies" turns primate and nature studies inward, toward a man who faces his mortality.

In the past ten years or so, the BASS anthology has gotten more and more predictable, with a heavy emphasis toward the traditional, and while the trend is not broken by this volume, I was pleased to discover some messier stories - narratives such as Edward P. Jones's "A Rich Man" that are not tightly controlled and instead are allowed to breathe. Still, as long as Houghton Mifflin continues to choose New Yorker writers as editors, this is what readers will see in the series.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By cs211 on November 26, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First, let me state that I always recommend both the "Best American" and "O. Henry" annual short story anthologies to anyone with a modicum of interest in present-day American literature. By reading these volumes, you get exposed to a wide variety of some (but by no means all) of the best stories by some of our best writers (or at least those writers who produce in the short story format). A well-written short story is an easily consumed treat that also teaches something new about the human condition. Given the time constraints of modern-day life, it's surprising that short stories are not more popular. But certainly these anthologies deserve a wide audience.

I will also warn that, since interpreting works of art is subjective, others will have different reactions to the stories in this volume. My interpretation of the choices that Lorrie Moore made in putting this volume together was that she erred on the side of including instantly recognizable (but therefore not terribly innovative) stories by well-known authors, as well as including lengthier selections. Although the selections are made blind, without knowledge of the author's name, the pieces by Edward P. Jones, Alice Munro, Annie Proulx, John Updike, Mary Yukari Waters and John Edgar Wideman are all very recognizable via their subject matter and writing styles. Length, meanwhile, negates two of the main attributes of a good short story: brevity and pithiness. E.B. White, who always advocated using as few words as possible to communicate an idea, would not be pleased with all of Moore's selections.

My favorite story in the 2004 volume is Thomas McGuane's "Gallatin Canyon", a true masterpiece of a short story written in the O. Henry style.
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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful By M. JEFFREY MCMAHON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
Lorrie Moore, renowned short story writer whose Birds of America is one of her best collections has edited and chosen twenty American short stories. The stories, as she confesses herself, tend to be longish, 20-30 pages for the most part. In the back of the book the writers give their accounting of the stories, explaining how the stories were set into motion and even touch on some important themes. Eight of the twenty stories, almost half, were chosen from The New Yorker. Its dominance as a source of "best" stories is somewhat disconcerting. Can one magazine really be that good? I don't know. I admire Lorrie Moore so I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. In any event, the anthology's contents follow:

1. What You Pawn I Will Redeem by Sherman Alexie
2. Tooth and Claw by T. Coraghessan Boyle
3. Written in Stone by Catherine Brady
4. Accomplice by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum
5. Screen writer by Charles D'Ambrosio
6. Breasts by Stuart Dybek
7. Some Other, Better Otto by Deborah Eisenberg
8. Grace by Paula Fox
9. The Tutor by Nell Freudenberger
10. A Rich Man by Edward P. Jones
11. Limestone Diner by Trudy Lewis
12. Intervention by Jill McCorkle
13. Gallatin Canyon by Thomas McGuane
14. Runaway by Alice Munro
15. All Saints Day by Angela Pneuman
16. What Kind of Furniture Would Jesus Pick? by Annie Proulx
17. Docent by R.T. Smith
18. The Walk with Elizanne by John Updike
19. Mirror Studies by Mary Yukari Waters
20. What We Cannot Speak About We Must Pass Over by John Edgar Wideman

Highlight of the collection for me is "Runaway" by Alice Munro.
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