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The Best American Short Stories Paperback – April 13, 2016

3.7 out of 5 stars 153 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Guest editor and acclaimed author Tom Perrotta (The Leftovers, 2011) has selected winning and wildly entertaining stories for this annual anthology series. Raymond Carver and David Foster Wallace are the totems of Perrotta’s literary aesthetic. Embracing both, he remarkably moves past the now-tired debate of minimalism versus maximalism, and unsurprisingly (and correctly) arrives at Alice Munro as the “acknowledged master” of the form. Munro’s superb “Axis” is a sparkling example of Perrotta’s platonic ideal of combining “amplitude and compression” in a “handful of tightly focused scenes.” The best stories here succeed in doing so, notably Nathan Englander’s “What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank.” A seductive and bemused peek into the backrooms of American Jewish anxiety (marital and otherwise), this gem deserves all the praise it is receiving. Among the many winners in the collection, Eric Puchner’s chilling and humane sci-fi tale “Beautiful Monsters” and newcomer Roxanne Gay’s “North Country,” a humorous, sexy, and melancholy take on the pain and absurdity of loss and isolation, stand out. Both shine as examples of Perrotta’s preference for “plain, artful language about ordinary people.” The Contributors’ Notes provide intimate first-person insights into the backgrounds and thoughts of the authors, enhancing the reading experience. --Jonathan Schwartz

Review

"The best short storiees are small only when measured by the number of pages. Editor Tom Perrotta, best known for his novels Election and Little Children assembles a stellar collection of 20 stories that create their own worlds in 20 pages or less."
-USA TODAY
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547242107
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547242101
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (153 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #431,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Fairbanks Reader - Bonnie Brody TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I just finished reading The Best American Short Stories for 2012 edited by Tom Perrotta; series editor, Heidi Pitlor. The criteria for qualifying for this competition are that the story has been published between January 2011 and January 2012; publication is originally in American or Canadian periodicals; and the work has originally been published as a short story.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This year's edition of The Best American Short Stories is another very good collection in that series. I certainly liked some of the stories better-- sometimes much better-- than others, but none of them could be called bad reading. I think this is because of the mindset of this year's guest editor, Tom Perrotta.

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.
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These collections are always hit and miss for me. I love reading them because you know that you will find one or two amazing stories, maybe a new voice or two, and run into some surprises. Sometimes you see the "big names" like Saunders and Munro and think, "Oh, they'll be great," and they are. Other years, they disappoint. This year, it was the lesser known authors that blew me away.

I can't stand reading stories about white, upper-class, educated authors or entitled elitists. Please, no more. And enough of the "What We Talk About When We Talk About..." So overdone.

My favorites:

Carol Anshaw, "The Last Speaker of the Language" was dark, funny and overall, a story that stays with you.

Mary Gaitskill, "The Other Place" is just an amazing story about the darkness that lurks in us all. Loved it, I was not disappointed.

Roxane Gay, "North Country" is possibly my favorite story in here. I first read this story in Hobart, and I'm a big fan of her work, but re-reading it here I was just floored by the raw emotion and honesty.

Mike Meginnins, "Navigators," from the same issue of Hobart, really surprised me, wow. The gaming storyline was fascinating, but what really broke through was the father/son relationship. So good.

Steven Millhauser, "Magic Polish" is a great bit of literary sf/fantasy, contemporary Bradbury, sweet, and sad. Surprising.

Eric Puchner, "Beautiful Monsters" is such a touching bit of near future fable and myth, loved, again, caught me off-guard. Touching.
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