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on November 19, 2000
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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on February 19, 2001
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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on October 22, 2000
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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on October 23, 2000
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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on September 29, 2005
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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on November 23, 2000
Yes, this seems to be an average year. 1999's edition was much better. In fact, I think the best story in the book was the introduction by Amy Tan! Doctorow's intro this year was pretty lame.
If you're looking for something more exciting, grab the Best New American Voices 2000.
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on May 30, 2014
I ordered two books from 2 different sources on the same day. The one book arrived in a few days. This book is already a day behind in the last date promised and my class is already starting so I don't have access to this book.
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on March 2, 2002
Doctorow has excellent taste in short fiction. With only a few exceptions (Junot Diaz and Marilyn Krysl), the stories in this collection are excellent. Amy Bloom's story, "The Story", which i think is a great title, is an interesting story about writing, about the characters in the story, and it is a story about itself.Michael Byers has a great story about obsession and attraction rather than love (though he does go on a page or two too long). Ron Carlson has a wonderful story about about happiness and the ways you can get there. It is one of the best of these stories. There is a story from Raymond Carver, and it is as good as anything he has written. Kiana Davenport's story deals with abuse and family. Everett's "The Fix" is the best story in this anthology, which it's allusion to Christ, in a sort of Kafka-like way. Gautreaux's story about atonement is a winner as always. I remember reading Gurganus' story, "He's at the Office" when it was first published in the new yorker, and i remember thinking at the time that it had to be one of the better stories i'd read that year, so it was a pleasure to see doctorow select it. Aleksandar Hemon and Jhumpa Lahiri both have well told stories about being a foreigner in this country, though one has an uplifting feel and the other is more bleak, but both are a pleasure to read. Annie Proulx's "People in Hell Just Want a Drink of Water" is a story you should read. but don't let the title fool you, it doesn't fit the story. Sherwood's story about loss is weak and a better selection could have been made, but it wasn't dull like the two mentioned earlier. i could go on about the stories i haven't mentioned, but there is a space constraint. i've only read best american short stories 2000 and 2001, so i can't say if these selected are better or worse than what is normally picked, but i can say that there are 18 stories here that are fine examples of what a short story should be.
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on November 12, 2000
I felt very comfortable reading this collection of short stories. It was hard to put this one down. These stories rank close to Going Too Far by Steven Gardner which is another great book that you carry!
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on June 4, 2015
Very sad: the binding began falling apart shortly after I started reading it. Now it's in 5 pieces and I'm sending it back
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