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.
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