From Kirkus Reviews
It's debatable whether the fact that there are now almost 800 college English departments offering ``fiction-writing majors and minors,'' a fact noted by the editors of this hefty anthology, is cause for hope or alarm. It is at any rate certain that, as the editors go on to observe, the teachers laboring in these departments have become important arbiters, for their students and thus eventually for the wider society, of what modern fiction is and should be. The selections here are of interest because they represent the taste of these teachers; some 50 of them responded to a questionnaire sent out by Williford and Martone, who hoped to identify the stories by American writers published since 1970 to which those queried returned most often as ``readers, writers, and teachers.'' The choices that Williford and Martone (both writers and professors themselves) eventually made, perhaps unsurprisingly, tend to be weighted toward younger talent: there's far more fiction from the 1980s and 90s than the 70s here. The choices, again unsurprisingly, tend to reflect the emergence of a wider variety of voices (Sherman Alexie, Junot Diaz, Sandra Cisneros), and preoccupations than were evident in the 1970s. That said, the 50 stories assembled here (by Margaret Atwood, Donald Barthelme, Ethan Canin, Louise Erdrich, Amy Hempel, Jamaica Kincaid, Rick Bass, Tim O'Brien, Annie Proulx, Melanie Rae Thon, and John Edgar Wideman, among others) certainly do offer a fair survey of styles and interests at the end of the century. While the volume is likely (as, one assumes, it was intended) to quickly find its way onto the reading lists in many of those 800 courses, it also provides a useful overview of our tastes in short fiction at the moment, as well as further evidence of the extent to which American writers are still producing fine and original work in this form. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
About the Author
has taught in the writing programs at Southern Illinois University and the University of Alabama. His collection of stories, Macauley's Thumb,
was co-winner of the 1993 Iowa Short Fiction Award.