Kirkus Reviews QR Code


edited by Dave Eggers

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-547-59596-2
Publisher: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

An eclectic annual that will leave readers marveling over many of the discoveries and puzzling over the inclusion of a few.

The most category-defying of The Best American Series once again finds noted author Eggers (A Hologram for the King, 2012, etc.) listed as editor while serving more as teacher/mentor/ringleader for the high school class that is “voluntary and extracurricular and very simple: We read and discuss contemporary writing.” The anthology emerges from those discussions, and if its proudly proclaimed “nonrequired reading” status makes it something other than the year’s essential American writing, it at least gives a hint as to what a bunch of bright, responsive high school readers have found particularly compelling. Very much a product of its time, the anthology encompasses, among other things, graphic narratives, manifestos and reports from the various “Occupy” outposts, the eulogy for Apple’s Steve Jobs by his sister, Mona Simpson, the variety of phone responses elicited by a flyer requesting “If anyone wants to talk about anything, call me,” “Best American Lonely Guy” and pieces of long-form journalism about the complex lives and identities of real-life superheroes. There is zombie fiction from Jess Walter, inscrutable fiction from George Saunders and some pieces that leave it to readers to determine whether they are fiction or not. Perhaps the most powerful is “Redeployment” by Phil Klay, a Marine Iraqi vet with a master’s degree in creative writing and a collection of stories due. “We shoot dogs,” it starts. “Not by accident.” It then proceeds to detail what soldiers find when they return from battle—empty houses, broken marriages, lives that seem surreal, dogs that need to be put down. All readers will find their own favorites that justify the collection as a whole.

An anthology that reads like a long, engaging annual magazine.