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The Best American Short Stories 2011 Paperback – October 4, 2011

3.9 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"In this anthology series celebrating American short fiction annually since 1915, each year a different renowned writer chooses the best 20 stories of that year...Brooks does the honors impressively."
--Booklist

"Though many of the names here are familiar, this powerful new work re-establishes these authors' command of the form."
--Publishers Weekly"Another stellar selection from an anthology that has sustained high standards for 35 years..Each one of these stories could establish itself as some reader’s favorite."
--Kirkus, starred

Book Description

Previous ISBN: 978-0-547-05532-9
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Product Details

  • Series: Best American
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 2011 ed. edition (October 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547242166
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547242163
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #655,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By TChris TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 4, 2011
Format: Paperback
Any "best of" collection will succeed or fail -- in the reader's judgment -- according to how closely the editor's taste aligns with the reader's. Of the twenty stories in this volume, I think about half undeniably merited inclusion, and the other half aren't bad (although I suspect I might have chosen a different ten to replace them if given the daunting task of wading through hundreds of stories in search of gems). While the editors and I have somewhat different opinions as to what constitutes an outstanding short story, our differences are not vast. I particularly appreciated the diversity of the stories they chose and their recognition that the inclusion of a plot does not destroy the integrity of character-driven fiction.

I admired "Foster" -- the story of an Irish girl who leaves behind "shame and secrets" when she goes to live with another family for a time -- for Claire Egan's ability to describe characters and settings with high definition clarity. Both touching and heartening, it is my favorite of the twenty.

Some of the best stories in the collection are perceptive studies of characters responding to adversity: Tom Bissell's "A Bridge Under Water" examines the lives of a newly married couple who are only starting to understand their differences during the first days of an ill-fated honeymoon in Rome. In Ehud Havazelet's "Gurov in Manhattan," a Russian immigrant, reflecting upon a two year battle with cancer followed by his girlfriend's decision to leave him (and whose dying dog is now in his care), compares his life to the characters created by Russian literary masters. The death of small town America is the subject of Caitlin Horrocks' sadly funny "The Sleep.
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This was probably the worst Best American Short Stories collections I have read. While they all the noteworthy critics and reviewers are professional and remain friendly, they don't seem to appreciate this 2011 collection either. Primarily a nonfiction writer, Ms Brooks became an award-winning novelist. Good for her, that's her niche. Not here, though. All of these stories are linear with simple characters, plots and story lines that are easy-to-follow, and in 3rd person with a rather shallow emphasis on diversity in cultures, backgrounds, ethnicities, and in visceral shock value. These 2011 selections underscore Brooks' lack of enthusiasm, of curiousity, and of sophistication toward any of the elements that make a short story a short story. Her analogy on how a good well-told short story should mirror a good, well told joke is not as humoruous as she intended it to be. Uggh! I can only hope that the BASS series editor learns from this mistake of choice and returns to selecting true short fiction writers for its guest editors.

As a personal rule, I never read the Intruduction by a Guest Editor until after reading the entire selection of stories. For this year's collection, I wish I had read the Introduction first. Heck, I wish I had had a chance to read the introduction before I bought the book. Ms Geraldine Brooks doesn't even care for the short story genre. She has never even written a short story, nor does she care to read them. Worse, she spends most of the Introduction trash-talking the typical American short story writer for the sameness in plots, people, and scenarios. Remember, this example of bad propriety is coming from an author who has never written a short story and yet shows no respect toward writers who have spent years fully committed to the craft and creation of the short story. I say, pass on this collection and wait for next year.
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Format: Paperback
This is a time-saving review for busy readers. I've marked the locales up front. Geographical diversity is strong this year. (In fact the American connection is tenuous in some cases). The editors grumble about the use of present tense and child's point of view, so if you're irritated by those I've marked them as PT and SPOV to save you time.
There are deaths in only ten, which is a low, score for this collection, although Tom Bissell has a church full of bones and Steven Millhauser has a town full of ghost, which raises the necro-count. Richard Powers was the only one to use the second person narration style. Seven of the stories are from the New Yorker. Here are the potted plots:

Nigeria: Outgrowing the first wife.
South Carolina: Dead mother, live parrot. PT.
Rome: Should we raise the kids Jewish?
Manhattan: Addict suicide. PT.
Israel: Homicidal Holocaust survivor.
Boston: Jilted babysitter rejects kid.
Manhattan: Cancer, lost girl friend, dying dog.
North Dakota: Town hibernates.
Corpus Christi,Texas: Fantasies of the girl next door.
Ireland: Surrogate child. PT, CPOV
Bergen County, New Jersey: Dungeons and dragons. PT, CPOV
Chicago: Gay actor's career skids.
Maine: Old house memories.
New England: Phantoms. PT.
Texas Badlands: Doctor's head injury. CPOV.
Atlantic City: Dead mother. CPOV.
Wotton-on-the-Wold: Old book. PT.
Manhattan: Korean-Jewish-Jamaican triangle, PT
Large Workroom: Designer drugs
Brno: Killing rabbits. CPOV
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