THE PUSHCART PRIZE XXIII: Best of the Small Presses by Bill--Ed. Henderson

THE PUSHCART PRIZE XXIII: Best of the Small Presses

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Here's the ever-welcome annual sampling of noncommercial publishing, full enough of poems, stories, and essays to redeem Henderson's somewhat self-congratulatory introductory declaration of literary independence (and survival). This year the essays rank a bit higher than the stories, despite biggish-name contributions by Colum McCann, Jeffery Eugenides, Frederick Busch, and Stephen Dixon. Founding editor Joyce Carol Oates delivers a hallmark portrayal of family secrets and hidden violence in ""Faithless,"" and Thomas Disch offers a jet-black satire of NEA-sponsored theater in ""The First Annual Performance Festival at Slaughter Rock."" Otherwise, the stories often show the watermark of writing workshops in their pages (although none of this basically competent selection could be confused with the assembly-line fiction of the '80s). The idiosyncratic personal essay is clearly well suited to the Pushcart arena, although essays here are outnumbered by other genres. The best include Andre Dubus's moving reflection on teaching Hemingway's story ""In Another Country""; Francine Prose's quirky profile of her father's career as a pathologist at New York City's Bellevue Hospital; Julie Showalter's vivid memoir of hardscrabble fanning in ""The Turkey Stories""; and Emily Fox Gordon's tartly amusing rumination on girls'-school hierarchies and modern feminism in ""The Most Responsible Girl."" The few essays about poetry, such as Carol Muske's on Auden's honorable self-sabotage of his laureateship in ""There Goes the Nobel Prize,"" outstrip in quality many of the poems. Among the poetry contributors are Toi Derricotte, Marilyn Hacker, and Grace Schulman. ""Nobody wants to buy us!"" exclaims Henderson, to account for Pushcart's successful existence outside corporate publishing--no one, that is, except readers interested in good writing.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1998
Page count: 600pp
Publisher: Pushcart