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The O. Henry Prize Stories 2003 (Pen / O. Henry Prize Stories) Paperback – September 9, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A new, wider-ranging selection process (allowing the consideration of all English-language writers appearing in North American publications regardless of citizenship) makes this one of the strongest O. Henry collections in recent years, with stories by, among others, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ("The American Embassy"), A.S. Byatt ("The Thing in the Forest") and William Trevor ("Sacred Statues"). Other standouts include Anthony Doerr's "The Shell Collector," which details the daily rituals of a blind shell gatherer; Bradford Morrow's "Lush," the tale of an alcoholic husband forced to confront the possibility of redemption after the loss of his equally addicted wife; and the enchantingly bucolic "Swept Away" by T. Coraghessan Boyle, in which a strange set of circumstances brings together a grizzled Scotsman and a demure American birdwatcher. Ann Harleman incorporates crossword puzzles and e-mails into "Meanwhile," a story about the pressures of attending to a chronically ill spouse, while Evan S. Connell's delightfully clever "Election Eve" juxtaposes marital and political conflict against the backdrop of a pre-election masquerade party. Denis Johnson's "Train Dreams," which could arguably be classified as a novella, is a sweeping, dreamlike portrait of the American west as seen through the eyes of a man who has lost his wife and young daughter in a fire. An extra bonus is an appendix in which the 2003 jurors (Jennifer Egan, David Guterson and Diane Johnson) weigh in on their top choices. This is a collection of literary gems that would surely please the man for whom the prize is named.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Laura Furman, taking the editorial helm of this respected annual, posits that when reading short stories, "we are better than we are in life, more ready to be empathic, more ready to see why another made the choices he did." Among Furman's 20 selections are established masters such as Alice Munro, T. Correghessan Boyle, and Tim O'Brien. Standouts include Marjorie Kemper's "God's Goodness," in which a dying teenager tests the faith of the Christian immigrant who cares for him; and "The High Road," by Joan Silber, in which a jaded ballet teacher has his heart broken by a young student. Two writers on the prize jury selected Denis Johnson's "Train Dreams" as their favorite; the astonishing novella documents the life and death of a simple hermit widower out West, and also mourns the passing of a particular way of life. Regular fans of the anthology may miss the list of 50 "short-listed" stories, which, in this volume, has been whittled down to 15. Nonetheless, students, teachers, and all short story aficionados who seek this volume out will be rewarded. James Klise
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Series: Pen / O. Henry Prize Stories
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (September 9, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400031311
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400031313
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,370,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By cs211 on November 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
I don't think you can go wrong reading either the O. Henry or the Best American short story anthologies; I read both each year. It's somewhat surprising that they are not more popular, since they expose the reader to a wide variety of the best writers and writings, and since short stories can be easily fit into the busiest of lifestyles, especially plane and train rides.
Each anthology attempts to identify the best 20 short stories of the year, but together they prove just how subjective this quest ends up being. This year, 2003, there is only one story that appears in both volumes, Anthony Doerr's "The Shell Collector". Thus, the views and biases of the editors end up determining the final selection - and in fact, this is one of the selling points of the Best American series, which features a different guest editor (a well-known author) each year. The O. Henry volume can rightfully claim to have a more consistent selection process, which produces more uniformity year to year.
2003 is the first year that Laura Furman (an author and professor at the UT at Austin - where does she find the time to read all these stories?) is editing the O. Henry series. What are her biases? She is kind enough to state them: she favors stories whose emotional impact is "revealed ... by stress or loss, the twin capitals of the short story's dominion. The peace of daily life, even the dullness of it, is what is decimated in the short story and replaced by the nightmares or sometimes the consolation of understanding another's existence or our own." With this as a prelude, don't expect any light-hearted love stories or comedies of manners.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Zandra KM on September 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
Being a huge short story fan, I was really pleased to pick up such a fine volume. The winning stories are pleasantly varried, which makes the entire book a pleasure to read. I found most stories to be captivating, in an almost-miss-my-subway-stop kind of way. However, there were a couple that didn't quite gain that status in my mind.
Among my favourites were "The Shell Collector" by Anthony Doerr, for its intreguing characters and dynamic plot, and "God's Goodness" by Marjorie Kemper, for its realistic simplicity.
This is the type of book that makes a great gift, and is definitely one to share around with your friends and family. (Mostly so you can have someone to discuse the stories with, and why would you want to deny anyone a good story?)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
I always look forward to the annual release of this short fiction series. Unlike some of the other anthologies, The O. Henry Prize is judged by a panel of well-known literary writers. In the case of this 2003 edition, David Guterson (Snow Falling on Cedars), Diane Johnson (Le Divorce), and Jennifer Egan (Look At Me) join series editor Laura Furman to compile these twenty noteworthy stories. Two out of the three jurors selected Denis Johnson's novella-length "Train Dreams" as the top story, while the third adored A.S. Byatt's "The Thing of the Forest." These two stories sandwich the other eighteen, although not all readers will be in agreement with the jurors as to which is the best. Anthony Doerr's "The Shell Collector" is a stunning foray into shellfish toxins and the blind man who finds both miracle and curse in them. "Burn Your Maps" by Robyn Joy Leff is a tender tribute to the oddity of childhood and family life. "Three Days. A Month. More." by Douglas Light shows childhood loss through repetition and the confusion of time passing. Alice Munro's "Fathers" explores the strange, influential relationships between fathers and daughters, and the effect they have on the narrator. Most of the stories have a traditional bent, although others, such as Ann Harleman's "Meanwhile," employ inventive storytelling techniques. If these stories share anything, it's their off-kilter yet complete worlds, where the story is found in oddity and the underlying redemption in emotional engagement.

Readers will find themselves returning to reread some stories and shrugging off others as "merely" good. All in all, this is an excellent sampling of some of the best short fiction being published today.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S. Calhoun on October 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
I have to admit that I was apprehensive to read THE O.HENRY PRIZE STORIES 2003 because I was disappointed with the quality of short stories in last year's volume. But looking back I am now very glad that I took the chance and purchased the 2003 volume. I'm not certain whether the drastic improvement can be attributed to the resignation of the former editor Larry Dark or simply a better publication year for short stories. Regardless, the 2003 volume of O.Henry stories is definitely worth reading. I took my time reading each story and was always pleasantly surprised when each story's quality did not falter. There are a wide variety of stories included. Some of my favorites include Adam Desnoyer's Bleed Blue in Indonesia, TC Boyle's Swept Away, Evan Connell's Election Eve, Tim Johnston's Irish Girl, and William Trevor's Sacred Statues. Some of the authors are well known (such as TC Boyle, AS Bryant, Alice Munro, etc.) while others are less. However, the variety of authors always proves to be a hidden gem in short story anthologies as it proves a great avenue in discovering new and more obscure writers. Any fan of the short story would enjoy reading this book.
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The O. Henry Prize Stories 2003 (Pen / O. Henry Prize Stories)
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