Seventeen stories or novel excerpts, chosen by guest editor Prose from, presumably, the most talented among the nation’s university writing programs.
The best of the new voices here address life a far distance from academia and with distinctive language. Rattawut Lapcharoensap’s “Farangs” is told from the perspective of a Thai resort owner’s son: “June: the Germans come to the island . . . speaking like spitting July: the Italians, the French, the British, the Americans . . . . Americans are the fattest, the stingiest of the bunch. They may pretend to like pad thai or grilled prawns or the occasional curry, but twice a week they need their . . . hamburgers and their pizzas. They’re also the worst drunks.” In Frances Hwang’s poignant “Garden City,” a Chinese couple invest in an unrentable apartment in Queens, attracted by its gardens, and play out the tensions connected with the death of their son from cancer at 15 through the trials of renting to a woman who loses her job and then, perhaps, her mind. (This is Hwang’s second appearance in a Best New American Voices anthology.) There are also more predictable stories of thwarted romance. Joshua Ferris’s narrator in “More Abandon” stays at the office all night, becoming increasingly reckless. He leaves Genevieve, a female coworker, five long confessional messages, switches one woman’s pig office decor for a guy’s pictures of a girl, taking much too long to reach its conclusion that “Maybe he wants to be fired. The only cure to loving Genevieve.” In “Dog Children,” by Tamara Guirado, Maggie tries to save her relationship with Avashai (formerly Donny, her Irish/Cherokee lover) by watching porn with him in her barn apartment near Seattle: “ . . . they could hear the soft nickering of the neighbor’s horses while on the television screen, a small blond woman in a red neckerchief straddled the supine body of Long Dong Silver.” And Rebecca Barry, in “Snow Fever,” superbly captures a barroom’s pseudo intimacy.
As promised, promising voices.