20 UNDER 30: Best Stories by America's New Young Writers by Debra--Ed. Spark

20 UNDER 30: Best Stories by America's New Young Writers

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Editor Spark warns modestly: ""The writers represented here have not had particularly unusual lives. What they do have is imagination which allows them to get past the early writer's excessive dependence on autobiography."" True enough. But Spark also notes the near-universal workshop-style of the great majority of the stories here--which has the effect of somewhat canceling out the gain. The careful, almost identically fractured paragraphing, the semidetached narrative voices: the effect is of cloning--and you may find yourself wishing for a little shaggy and embarrassing and old-fashioned post-adolescent autobiography. But there are highlights here. While some of the stories are over-gritty and hence unconvincing, two that do seem strong and credible, indeed, are a Tobacco Road-of-the-80's story by Kate Wheeler, ""Judgment""; and Leigh Allison Wilson's comic ""The Raising"" (shades--earned--of James Wilcox and Ed McClanahan). David Leavitt's ""Aliens"" succeeds because it stems from Leavitt's primary strength--writing about the hells of disturbed children. Jesse Lee Kercheval's ""Underground Woman"" is compelling--while at the other end of the spectrum, Lorrie Moore's ""Amahl and the Night Visitors"" should prove once and for all that Ann Beattie wasn't only a 70's phenomenon: the same protocol of errant feinting at junk metaphors continues apace. Most else is quite forgettable. . .but the attrition rate in this fresh-young-face sort of thing is usually high. Credit Sparks for her lack of hyperbole and lack of ideological/editorial deck-stacking.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1986
Publisher: Scribner