This year’s edition of the well-known anthology engages the world.
Selections by Sebold (The Almost Moon, 2007, etc.) tend to grapple with the issues of the day, rather than concerning themselves primarily with the formalistic edicts of academic programs. “Each of these twenty stories is risky in its own way,” comments series editor Pitlor in her foreword. Many of the entries, she continues, “demonstrate the human ability to endure crises and to regenerate afterward.” Two fictions inspired by the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina couldn’t be more different. “Rubiaux Rising” is the shortest piece here (eight pages) and one of the most powerful. Compressed details deliver a visceral jolt in Steve De Jarnatt’s narrative about an Iraq veteran, addicted to pain killers since he lost an arm and a leg to an IED, who has been locked in an attic by his mother to detox when Katrina (never mentioned) strikes. It’s the first story the author ever submitted for publication, one of the discoveries that makes this series so valuable. The 40-page “Hurricanes Anonymous” by Adam Johnson is the volume’s longest piece and one of its richest, detailing connections made and lost in the emotional aftermath of two Louisiana storms. “Rubiaux” did not need to be a syllable longer; “Hurricanes” could have sustained the reader’s interest for many more pages. Other tales concern war, past as well as present, and foreign affairs. Another contributor being published for the first time is Zambia-born Namwali Serpell (“Muzungu”); the usual roster of familiar names includes Jill McCorkle, Richard Powers and Annie Proulx; and the collection features multiple selections from such reliably discerning publications as the New Yorker (four) and Tin House (three).
As worthwhile as ever—any reader will discover some new favorites here.