As guest editor, Michael Chabon sets entertainment as the standard for good writing. Because for Chabon, entertainment is nothing less than human connection. If we derive pleasure from this connection, it is because through it we experience something real, visceral, and intellectual, albeit vicariously.
His mission, therefore, is to restore the fallen status of entertainment. To do this, he casts a wide net over water "serious" writers and readers often find too shallow. He trawls the waterways for writing that reeks of ghost stories, science fiction, detective novels, action movies, and folklore. Anything that leads to new and unusual forms. (Not surprising for the man who wrote The Mysteries of Pittsburgh.)
To avoid an exhaustive list, I'll contain myself to quick descriptions of seven stories inside.
"Until Gwen," by Denis Lehane, has the feel of a detective thriller, or film noir. It's a murder story told in the second person, with an accurate rendering of characters who have fallen so far, there's no bottom left to hit.
"Eight Pieces for the Left Hand," by J. Robert Lennon, is a series of eight folktale-like vignettes that have continuity in recurring themes.
"Death Defier," by Tom Bissell, is war story with an inescapable, catastrophic ending.
"Anda's Game," by Cory Doctorow, is almost sci-fi. It's the story of a child's online role-playing game with real-world consequences.
"The Secret Goldfish," by David Means, tells the story of the disintegration of a marriage from the perspective of the family goldfish.
"The Cousins," by Joyce Carol Oates, tells, in letter form, the story of two cousins separated by World War II and the Holocaust.
"Hart and Boot," by Tim Pratt, mythologizes the partly true, partly fictional lives of Wild West figures Pearl hart and John Boot.
Perhaps the best way to judge the quality of an anthology such as this is to measure how successful the guest editor has been in achieving the goals he or she set forth in their introduction. If that suits you, then this is a high-quality product.
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