THE PUSHCART PRIZE XXI

BEST OF THE SMALL PRESSES

As always in the Pushcart collections of stories, essays, and poems from the little magazines, there is a wide range of quality and a good balance of names familiar and scarcely known. Series editor and publisher Henderson has long had a sharp eye for talent and for the quirky, if not the trendy. Here, despite the expected occasional dud, he has culled interesting works from 44 sources ranging from the high-profile Paris Review to the low- profile The Baffler. The latter publication, in fact, chips in with one of the anthology's highlights, a lengthy essay titled ``Dark Age: Why Johnny Can't Dissent,'' by Tom Frank. Among other astute jabs, Frank eschews what passes for political ``dialogue'' from public officials and those on the campaign trail in favor of business journals and papers like the Wall Street Journal. There, he says, is the place ``to find serious talk about national affairs.'' Barry Lopez's tribute to the late Wallace Stegner is also a gem, as is Hope Edelman's ``Bruce Springsteen and the Story of Us,'' wherein she confesses to losing her virginity to the throbbing beat of ``Hungry Heart.'' There's a potent short story by S.L. Wisenberg called ``Big Ruthie Imagines Sex Without Pain,'' which may remind some of Grace Paley, and another fine piece of work by Daniel Orozco, ``The Bridge,'' in which a member of a painting crew comes face-to-face with a woman who's just leapt to her death. The poetry entries don't always measure up. Lackluster poems from Czeslaw Milosz and Seamus Heaney are offset by sharp work from Kim Addonizio and Loretta Collins, whose ``Fetish'' is a wickedly funny paean to shoes. The Pushcart series is the best of its kind and a worthy effort simply because Henderson ignores the latest trends and fads and zeroes in on quality wherever he happens to find it.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-916366-96-0

Page Count: 635

Publisher: Pushcart

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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