Books by William Abrahams

PRIZE STORIES 1995 by William Abrahams
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 1, 1995

The 75th and latest in the O.Henry series: a mixed bag of 21 stories that are mostly familiar trots by such perennials as Updike, Oates, and Gilchrist, but with impressive work from a relative newcomer, Edward J. Delaney. The First Prize, ``The Women Come and Go,'' by Cornelia Nixon (The New England Review), recounts with novelistic compression the coming-to-adulthood of Margy, a musical protÇgÇ, and her friends in the Sixties; the story is evocative but slight and sentimental, rushing through its territory without lingering often enough in the right places. Far better is ``The Drowning''—the Delaney story (The Atlantic Monthly) or, more exactly, the story-within-a-story told by a son about his father, a priest in politically troubled Ireland who pretends to drown and escapes from the old country; the piece shadows its own logic without rush or cant. Of the rest, Alison Baker's ``Loving Wanda Beaver'' (The Gettysburg Review), about Oleander Joy—a woman in love with detasseling corn and with Wanda Beaver—is memorable comic relief that climaxes when Oleander has her way with Wanda. Updike, meanwhile, is his gracious and subtle self in ``The Black Room'' (The New Yorker—where else?), about an elderly mother and her middle-aged son who return to the old house for a look-see; and Oates, in ``You Petted Me, and I Followed You Home'' (The Ontario Review), offers a dog story that's finally too shrill. Several stories, like ``Settled on the Cranberry Coast,'' by Michael Byers (The Missouri Review), are dreary epistles—slices-of-life that are emblematic of the self- parody so evident these days on the lit-mag scene. A mostly disappointing collection: too many names appear as if by rote, too many of the lesser-knowns are slight or derivative. Read full book review >
PRIZE STORIES 1989 by William Abrahams
Released: April 20, 1989

The silly feature of the O.Henry's—the awarding of first and second prizes—continues to be silly, this year quite noticeably so since the first prize goes to a hackneyed piece of southern-family-loyalty business by Ernest J. Finney called "Peacocks"; while the second-place finisher—Joyce Carol Oates' "House Hunting," a genuine agoraphobic nightmare—is so much the stronger. John Casey's "Avid"—a portrait of a rich young woman adrift—is the most narratively rich of the stories here; Charles Dickinson's vivid "Child in the Leaves" offers strong reward as well. Two overtly "plain" stories also score: Frances Sherwood's unadorned rÇsumÇ of a mixed marriage, "History": and Charles Simmons' artfully underplayed high-school-ethics drama, "Clandestine Acts." James Salter's "American Express" is involving but almost too suave, becoming an exercise in high-sheen mannerism; David Foster Wallace's fitful "Here and There" is editor Abrahams' concession to nonrealistic fiction. The rest is fairly alkaline: stories by Alice Adams, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Millicent Dillon, and others. Read full book review >