THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 1997 by E. Annie Proulx

THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 1997

edited by

KIRKUS REVIEW

Over 80 years old, this admirable series might consider a new rule: No stories included that will appear in book form before the "best" volume does. The latest entry features quite a few already reviewed by Kirkus as parts of story collections (Lydia Davis, Junot Diaz, Tobias Wolff, Tim Gautreaux, etc.) and even novels (by Cynthia Ozick and Clyde Edgerton). That caveat aside, Proulx selects stories from almost all major venues, which makes series editor Kenison's ramblings about on-line mags, none represented, a bit silly. Combative and feisty, Proulx clearly prefers more conventional narrative forms, though the subjects here are free-ranging. Standouts include Jonathan Franzen's "Chez Lambert," a deft piece about an elderly couple and their daily lives in retirement. Equally textured and subtle is Jeffrey Eugenides's "Air Mail," a chronicle of its narrator's post-collegiate Wanderjahr, which takes him to the East and an apparent experience of spiritual ecstasy. Heavily determined by place are Para Durban's southern family tale "Soon," about the legacies of tough-minded women; Donald Hall's anti-nostalgic "From Willow Temple," spanning the century in Michigan and revealing the secret passions of some unforgiving people; and Alison Hagy's "Search Bay," set on Michigan's Upper Peninsula and neatly reflecting the harsh life of its central figure, a retired seaman who lives alone. Richard Bausch defines the humor here with his hilarious "Nobody in Hollywood," about two wayward brothers and the difficult women they encounter. Karen E. Bender's "Eternal Love" provides a touching counterpoint with its tale of two retarded adults getting married. Michelle Cliff and T.C. Boyle, both writers with heavy hands, consider the ironies of race and colonialism (Cliff) and the pro-life movement (Boyle). All in all, a strong sampling of what the major magazines (the New Yorker, Paris Review, GQ, etc.) are publishing these days.
Pub Date: Nov. 3rd, 1997
ISBN: 0-395-79865-5
Page count: 381pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1997




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