The 75th and latest in the O. Henry series: a mixed bag of 21 stories that are mostly familiar trots by such perennials as...

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PRIZE STORIES 1995: The O. Henry Awards

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 prot‚g‚, in the '60s: 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 tale (The Atlantic Monthly): a 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 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 fora 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.

Pub Date: April 1, 1995

ISBN: 0385476728

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1995