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The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories Paperback – September 6, 1994
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Eleanor Mitchell Arizona State Univ., West Phoenix
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
Tobias Wolff, one of America's hardest hitting fiction writers, ("The Night in Question: Stories" and "In the Garden of North American Martyrs") has hammered together one of the best collections of modern fiction--far better than any individual "Best of..." collection.
If you are drawn, like me, to the intensity and disillusionment present in American literature at the turn of the century (i.e. Edith Wharton, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald) this book may be what you have been looking for in contemporary writers. Including such staples of the contemporary cannon as Raymond Carver, Andre Dubuse, Amy Tan, Joyce Carol Oates this book packs in the best of modern short fiction and restores the genre to its former revered status.
Among the many highlights in the collection, among them Kate Braverman's hypnotic "Tall Tales From the Mekong Delta", Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" in which Carver actually takes a step toward justifying the hype surrounding often over rated work, Mary Gaitskill's "A Romantic Weekend" a take on sadomasochism that is at once cold and humorous, Barry Hannah's "Testimony of Pilot", Thom Jones' "A White Horse", Robert Stone's "Helping", and John Edgar Wideman's "Daddy Garbage", but the two highest points of the collection, as they would be in any other collection, are Denis Johnson's "Emergency" and Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried". The first, from Johnson's indispensable collection "Jesus' Son", is halucinogenic, unnerving and beautiful. In "Emergency" Denis Johnson reveals his uncanny ability to draw the reader into the fabric of his story to the point where one believes that he is an actual physical observer of the events portrayed. Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried" is equally evocative, but in a much more overt and emotional way.Read more ›
I've read about half the book so far, and I'm struck by two things. First, almost all of the stories are about 18-22 pages, or around 10,000 words. (This isn't the case later in the book, where there are some shorter stories.) Stories at this length are still "short," but they're "longish-short," and aren't necessarily indicative of the genre. Many of them feel more like chapters from novels, with the kind of ambiguous resolution at the end which suggests another chapter to come.
The second thing that bothers me is that so many of the stories are about violence. There's suicide, rape, S&M, parents beating children... It's as if Tobias Wolff has only one kind of short story he appreciates. This gives a very skewed view of the American short story of the 1970s and 1980s. To be honest, I haven't really enjoyed any of the dozen stories I've read in the first half of the book. I feel sorry for any college student who is assigned this book as being representative of American fiction.
So, if you want a collection of recent American short stories, you might want to look elsewhere. Both Scribner and Ecco have anthologies that are more recent, and that include stories that are more correctly contemporary.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book that contains a wide range of American stories. Needed this for my English college course and it came in excellent condition like described.Published 3 months ago by Li
It's a very good book. There were no scratch marks on or around my textbook. It arrived in my mail box on September 17, 2015. Read morePublished 7 months ago by CBiddlesnoopy1
Got this for my English class, the stories are all very interesting. Over all, it was a good buy.Published 15 months ago by alexis
Got this book as a gift for my brother (and English teacher) and he loves it.Published 17 months ago by Patricia T
Pristine condition. Only slight pencil marks which weren't concealed or anything.