THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 1983 by Anne Tyler

THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 1983

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KIRKUS REVIEW

For 1982, Wright Morris' "Victrola"--a Chekhovian tale of man-dog attachment--was clearly the story of the year: it was the standout of William Abrahams' strong O. Henry Award collection (p. 191)--and it's certainly the standout of this less impressive gathering by novelist Tyler, 1983's guest-editor for the Best American Short Stories series. While less idiosyncratic than some previous guest-editors, Tyler's obvious preference for realistic domestic situations--mildly quirky, mostly non-urban, usually more than a bit sentimental--results in an anthology without much variety; you'll find nothing very stylish, very comic, very adventurous or disturbing here. Bobbie Ann Mason's "Graveyard Day," also a highlight of 1983's Pushcart Prize collection, is by far the best in this dominant vein: one of her fine, offhand portraits of ordinary people (a divorced mother on a graveyard picnic with daughter and beau) achieving some grace in lives defined by TV and fast-foods--a Middle America viewed with precision but no condescension. Engaging, too, are slightly offbeat sketches by Julie Schumacher (a super-competent mother's near-magical approach to her own illness) and Louise Erdrich (an outsider's wry view of the marriage between an Indian man and a huge truck-weigher). And there are solid, surprise-less New Yorker stories on marriage, divorce, and kids--with John Updike deftly getting some extra texture by counterpointing divorce with the "Deaths of Distant Friends." Only Ursula Le Guin, however, offers a little daring: her neat, deadpan "Sur" posits an all-female Antarctic expedition that predated Amundsen. Only Laurie Colwin tries, with semi-success, to create a real voice: a middle-aged man complaining--with some sex-role reversals and some affecting moments--about "My Mistress." And this otherwise sound-and-pleasant collection is marred by the inclusion of one truly ghastly item: "The Count and the Princess" by Joseph Epstein--an obvious, plastic, corny tale of odd-couple romance (a European count, a Jewish divorcee) that seems more like a TV-sitcom pilot than a serious short story. (Even Tyler's gushing, story-by-story introduction, which reads like a medley of her many book-ad blurbs, can't work up much genuine enthusiasm for this entry.) Still--one of the better post-Foley anthologies, with few risks and few inspired moments, but also with few pretensions or embarrassments.
Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1983
ISBN: 039534428X
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1983




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