THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 1995 by Jane Smiley

THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 1995

edited by
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

The eightieth anniversary issue of this annual series displays a catholicity of taste that's often been missing from previous volumes. Smiley's selection, drawn from a wide array of magazines, balances new and familiar voices, and, most noticeably, avoids the trendier themes and styles of recent years. Religious themes are honorably treated in a number of fine pieces here: Newcomer Steven Polansky's "Leg" concerns a middle-aged Christian father who sacrifices his leg in order to test the indifference of his head-banger son. Old pro Don DeLillo is represented by "The Angel Esmeralda," a densely imagistic story that embodies an almost medieval theological debate about transcendence, and sets it against the ruins of the South Bronx. Edward J. Delaney's "The Drowning" chronicles the dramatic life story of a former Irish priest who uses his knowledge from the confessional to alter his life forever. The bloody crossroads where politics and religion intersect provide the background for a tale set in Northern Ireland (Jennifer C. Cornell's "Undertow") and another about Zionist Nazi-hunters (Avner Mandelman's "Pity"). Meanwhile, the influence of genre fiction is a welcome addition: Jaimy Gordon's hard-boiled "Night's Work" brilliantly surveys the world of racetrack rates; equally tough-minded is Edward Falco's "The Artist," an action-filled narrative about a successful, suburban artist who dramatically confronts his crime-ridden past. Quirkier stories include the confessions of a former obsessive-compulsive (Andrew Cozine's "Hand Jive"); a macabre job-orientation lecture (Daniel Orozco's "Orientation"); Andrea Barrett's tale of love and honor among geneticists ("The Behavior of the Hawkweeds"); and Thom Jones's wild piece about an alcoholic baboon (from Cold Snap, p. 495). A number of clinkers concern familiar themes: a mother dying from cancer, a disaffected Vietnam vet, suburban adultery. But Ellen Gilchrist's "The Stucco House"--a seven-year-old's view of his troubled alcoholic mother--takes the honors as the collection's most moving story. A strong addition to the venerable series.
Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1995
ISBN: 0395711797
Page count: 351pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1995




MORE BY JANE SMILEY

NonfictionMARCH SISTERS by Kate Bolick
by Kate Bolick
FictionGOLDEN AGE by Jane Smiley
by Jane Smiley
FictionEARLY WARNING by Jane Smiley
by Jane Smiley