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The Best American Short Stories Paperback – October 2, 2012
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Top Customer Reviews
This year's compilation has some wonderful stories and some weaker ones. It's what I'd expect when someone goes through hundreds of stories and makes their personal picks. No one has the same taste as I do, nor would I expect them to.
Alphabetically, the stronger stories in the collection are The Last Speaker of the Language by Carol Anshaw. It is about a single mother raising a ten year-old parental child nearly perfect in her rare maturity. Mom has an alcohol problem and is out of work.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander, comes from his collection of the same title. Two Jewish couples who have not seen each other in many years get together. One of the couples has become Hasids and the other couple are secular Jews. Like many Jews, they end up playing a game (which is not really a game) of who would you trust to hide and protect you and your family if there was another holocaust.
North Country by Roxanne Gay is a beautiful ode to love and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was so powerful that it brought goose bumps to my arms.
In Miracle Polish by Steven Millhauser, a man buys a bottle of mirror polish from a door-to-door salesman. The polish has potent, yet eerie powers. While it gives him hope and feelings of renewal, it pushes his girlfriend away.Read more ›
As he explains in his introduction, he attended graduate school in the 1980s, when Marxist criticism and post-structuralist literary theory were very much in vogue. That's when I attended grad school, too, though not at Syracuse with Perrotta. It's hard to believe it now, but no one could read anything at all without subjecting it to intense political analysis and seeing it through the filter of identity politics. It was at the same time heady and ridiculous. Heady because it seemed that we were the select few who had been given secret decoder rings that allowed us to discern what literature was REALLY about. Ridiculous because the obvious idea that stories should be about people living their lives very nearly vanished in the haze of lit-crit jargon.
Perrotta was saved. Today, as he says, "I like stories written in plain, artful language about ordinary people. I'm wary of narrative experiments and excessive stylistic virtuosity, suspicious of writing that feels exclusive or elitist, targeted to readers with graduate degrees rather than the general public, whatever that means."
And that's the filter he applied as he selected the stories in this anthology. As he admits, it came down to his opinions. He's right about that, but I think his opinions are, as he says, democratic. The discussions that characterized the boom in post-structuralist criticism in graduate schools are now twenty-five years in the past.Read more ›
In contrast, the contemporary short story is more of a "slice of life." You might say that not much happens. It's more fragmentary, a character sketch, and shows possibilities but often has no clear resolution. This type of story leaves more room for the reader to insert his own conjectures and reactions. You can judge its effectiveness on whether the story evokes such responses. Does it involve the reader? Does it open your eyes to the circumstances of another time, place and person? Does it make you care about the characters and their lives?
If you don't expect the classic narrative structure, like Jack London's "Love of Life," "Best American Short Stories 2012" offers an outstanding collection of contemporary short stories. These twenty stories are a multifaceted array of characters and settings. Julie Otsuka in "Diem Perdidi" lets you share the life of an aging Japanese-American internment camp survivor. Miracle Polish" by Steven Millhauser deviates from the "contemporary" genre setting out more of an actual plot, albeit fanciful. Nathan Englander in "What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank," opens our minds to religious choices and courage. Eric Puchner's "Beautiful Monsters" is a standout. It removes us from the mundane by switching perspectives on Life. "Beautiful Monsters" merits many adjectives, among them: astonishing, appalling, moving, compelling, tragic.
"Best American Short Stories" is a variety pack of quality fiction. You may not like each of the twenty short stories in this collection, but you will likely find at least one yummy choice in this assortment.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great stories! I bought this as a textbook for an online short story writing class. I haven't read the whole thing yet, but the stories that I have read are very interesting and... Read morePublished 2 months ago by BrendaH
This book was SO boring. I couldn't get through a single story. Very disappointed. Not for college students.Published 11 months ago by Mariam
There are many fine stories here that deserve several readings to get all of the "goodie"! Fine literature AND enjoyable!Published 13 months ago by frequent reader
An interesting collection of diverse stories by a variety of authors. This is the fourth year that our book group has chosen "The "Best American Short Stories," and... Read morePublished 14 months ago by flip wingrove
There were some pretty awesome stories in The Best American Short Stories 2012. I just wish they were all as good. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Billie Pritchett
Not much to say as my reading of this series tends to follow the same trajectory more often than not. I enjoyed a few and many were not my cup of tea. Read morePublished 16 months ago by JeriWB
Enjoyed reading all the short stories. I have seen or heard the Author before. East Read for the summer and take to the Beach.Published 19 months ago by Mimi
In contrast to the 2013 edition that followed it, The Best American Short Stories 2012 was far, far superior. Read morePublished 19 months ago by garythegrim