From Publishers Weekly
In a collection boasting the wide range of writers and themes that has come to be expected of the O. Henry Awards, the biggest news might be the comeback of the New Yorker as magazine of the year. With only one story from the magazine making the cut last year, this time it boasts five of the winning selections and several more on the short list. This may reflect editor Larry Dark's wish that short stories reach a broader audience, and indeed many readers will be familiar with the New Yorker winners, ranging from selections by such well-known favorites as Alice Munro and Louise Erdrich to a story by newcomer David Schickler, whose surreal and wacky urban romance, "The Smoker," was released as part of a well-received collection this year. The first-prize story, "The Deep" by relative unknown Mary Swan, is a haunting historical piece about twins during WWI. Andrea Barrett makes an appearance with "Servants of the Map," about a cartographer working in the Himalayas in the 1860s. There are moody contemporary pieces by Fred G. Leebron, Elizabeth Graver and Ron Carlson; chilling, crime-oriented stories from William Gay, Dale Peck, T. Coraghessan Boyle and Joyce Carol Oates; and a wry, comic, three-girls-and-a-guy morality play from Antonya Nelson. Those favoring an alternative point of view can dip into George Saunders's "Pastoralia" or second-prize winner Dan Chaon's hilarious "Big Me," and Murad Kalam and Pinckney Benedict serve up two very different visions of the future. As always, there will be debate about who should or should not have been included, but judges Mary Gordon, Michael Chabon and Mona Simpson have proffered an engrossing collection proving that talent and imagination are alive and thriving in the American short story. National advertising.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
In his introduction to Prize Stories 2001, editor Dark notes an increase in the number of longer stories, or novellas, being published in literary journals. To reflect this trend, Dark chose to publish three longer pieces, bringing the total number of stories in this year's volume to 17 rather than the usual 20. One of these, Mary Swan's "The Deep," an absorbing account of twin sisters in the World War I era, was chosen as the best story of the year. Runners up were Dan Chaon's "Big Me" and Alice Munro's "Floating Bridge." Munro also receives a special citation for her continued notable work in the short story form. Dark writes that he was torn between Munro's above-mentioned story and her equally fine "Post and Beam;" happily, the latter appears in Best American Short Stories 2001. Kingsolver narrowed her selections by opting for only those that "tell me something I don't already know." So we get funny and intriguing views of other cultures, such as Ha Jin's "After Cowboy Chicken Came to Town," which is about the workers in an American fast-food restaurant in China; Katherine Shonk's "My Mother's Garden," set near post-disaster Chernobyl; and Trevanian's sly Basque fable, "The Apple Tree." Two well-deserving stories, Elizabeth Graver's "The Mourning Door" and Andrea Barrett's "Servants of the Map," appear in both volumes. Both volumes are valuable additions to academic and larger public libraries. Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.