- Hardcover: 776 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1st edition (April 5, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0395843685
- ISBN-13: 978-0395843680
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 2.5 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 97 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,234,517 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
+ $6.99 shipping
+ $9.46 shipping
The Best American Short Stories of the Century Hardcover – April 5, 1999
"Maybe You Should Talk to Someone" by Lori Gottlieb
"This is a daring, delightful, and transformative book." ―Arianna Huffington, Founder, Huffington Post Learn more
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Customers who bought this item also bought
At age 67, the perennially youthful John Updike may at last qualify as something of an elder statesman. But the Best American Short Stories annual--whose greatest hits package Updike has now assembled--is almost a generation older, having commenced publication in 1915. This staying power allows the hefty Best American Short Stories of the Century to perform double duty. It is, on the one hand, a priceless compendium of American manners and morals--a decade-by-decade survey of how we lived then, and how we live now. Yet Updike very consciously avoided the sociological angle in making his selection. "I tried not to select stories because they illustrated a theme or portion of the national experience," he writes in his introduction, "but because they struck me as lively, beautiful, believable, and, in the human news they brought, important." In this he succeeded: the 55 fictions that made the grade are most notable for their human (rather than merely historical) interest.
So who got in? There are a good number of cut-and-dried classics here, including Hemingway's "The Killers," Faulkner's "That Evening Sun Go Down," and Philip Roth's acidic spin on religious connivance, "Defender of the Faith." In other cases, major authors are represented by relatively minor works. Yet it's hard to quibble with the inclusion of Willa Cather, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tennessee Williams, J.F. Powers, Eudora Welty--particularly when you take into account that their second-tier creations are fully the equal of anybody else's masterpieces. And the final third of the book really does constitute an honor roll of contemporary American fiction, with brilliant entries by Saul Bellow, Donald Barthelme, Raymond Carver, Tim O'Brien, Bernard Malamud, Cynthia Ozick, John Cheever, and Vladimir Nabokov. (For the latter, Updike actually succumbed to his own idolatry and bent the rules for admission--but nobody who reads the hallucinatory "That in Aleppo Once..." will regret it.) It goes without saying that fiction fans will be complaining about the editor's sins of omission well into the next century. But no matter how you slice it, this remains an elegant and essential advertisement for the short form. --James Marcus
From Publishers Weekly
The task had to be daunting, selecting the 55 stories that grace this volume. The title alone is daunting: the best? But the riches containedAincluding a foreword by Kenison and a deft introduction from UpdikeAprove the title accurate. Consider the resources mined: 2000 stories anthologized in annual best-of volumes since 1915. Although certain notable story writers, John O'Hara for one, never made it into the series and others who did have been crowded out of this volume, the stories excavated and displayed herein are gems. Often these are the gems one would expectAsuch as John Cheever's balance of the magical and the sinister in "The Country Husband," about an inappropriate desire that floods a man after a plane crash. What story captures better than "Greenleaf" Flannery O'Connor's affrontery before Protestantism and her vision of unearned grace? And would readers expect anything less of Dorothy Parker than "Here We Are," a scathing yet poignant depiction of a newly married couple bickering like old retirees? Indeed, the volume includes such signature stories as Joyce Carol Oates's "Where Are You Going, where Have You Been?," Cynthia Ozick's "The Shawl," Raymond Carver's "Where I'm Calling From" and Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried." But some stories here by the well-known are not necessarily the best known. Fitzgerald is represented not by "Babylon Revisited" but by "Crazy Sunday," about the perilous life of a screenwriter employed at a director's whim. The transient world captured in Eudora Welty's "The Hitch-Hikers" seems far removed from the homier gardens, parlors, and post offices familiar from her other fiction. And readers can be grateful that Updike chose not "The Magic Barrel" but Bernard Malamud's "The German Refugee," a tale that ends with a dark if O. Henry-like reversal. In Kenison's words, these stories are "an invaluable record of our century." The book opens with Benjamin Rosenblatt's "Zelig," a tale of an immigrant who longs against reason to return to Russia. Immigration is a recurring theme, picked up again in Alexander Godin's sadly ironic "My Dead Brother Comes to America," And that we are nearly all descendants of immigrants is Aas apparent in Willa Cather's "Double Birthday" or Saul Bellow's "A Silver Dish" as in Gish Jen's bitterly funny "Birthmates," about a Chinese-American as trapped by his self-definition as by the racism of others. In his introduction, Updike writes, "The American experience... has been brutal and hard." The stories bear this out. In Elizabeth Bishop's "The Farmer's Children," two boys freeze protecting their father's equipment, while in Grace Stone Coates's lovely "Wild Plums," a young girl is forbidden to gather fruit with a family her mother deems socially inferior. Life on this continent may be brutal, but this extraordinary collection offers up dazzling writing that salves the wounds, as well as stories full of the pleasures of life.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Read reviews that mention
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
I have read all the stories as they are printed, in chronological order, and thoroughly enjoyed them all, but there are a few which I found particularly striking: 1929 Willa Catha Double Birthday and Grace Stone Wild Plums;1944 Vladimir Nabokov That in Aleppo Once…; 1951 Tennessee Williams The Resemblance Between a Violin Case and a Coffine; 1955 John Cheever The Country Husband; 1957 Flannery O’Connor Greenleaf; 1960 Lawrence Sargent Hall The Ledge; and Phillip Roth Defender of the Faith/; 1979 Saul Bellow A Silver Dish; 1993 Thom Jones I Want to Live!; 1998 Annie Proulx The Half-Skinned Steer.
I enjoy reading short stories, and every year I purchase both the O. Henry Prize Stories and the Best American Short Stories. When I first did this, I was amazed at how little overlap there is between 20 stories chosen for each anthology (usually, there are only one or two stories in common, and typically the story chosen by O. Henry as the best of the year does not appear in the other anthology). So once again we have evidence that beauty (and art and subjective opinions such as "best") are in the eye of the beholder.
So, can John Updike's selections be debated? Undoubtedly; every reader of this anthology will be able to cite stories and authors that they believe should have been included (as for me, I was most disappointed by the absence of Ray Bradbury). But is this anthology worth reading? Absolutely!
Reading this anthology cover-to-cover is like traveling through time, and provides an enriching perspective on the history of the 20th century in America. From the hardscrabble existence of immigrants and farmers, to the Depression, to the problems of racism, to the war, to the ennui that exists in a time of relative plenty, these stories do cover the broad American experience of the past century. Furthermore (aside from Ray Bradbury), many of our best authors are represented, so this book is a good way to get introduced to authors that one has heard about but not read before.
It's surprising to me that short story anthologies aren't more popular, given our busy society. A well written short story entertains, conveys a message, teaches something about the human condition, and can be enjoyed in one sitting, such as a short plane or train ride. I would highly recommend this anthology as a way for short story novices to get started, and then one can graduate to the annual O. Henry and Best American Short Story anthologies.
This audio CD collection is very good and really well done. Many of the stories are read by their authors. The sound is crisp and clean, and (with rare exception) the diction fluid and natural. The stories themselves are varied and high-quality.
One thing to note, though, is that the audio version does not contain all the stories from the print version. That may seem obvious, but if you are expecting to hear one or anther of the stories from the book, know that the CD set only includes 22 stories.