The latest edition of this storied anthology covers the gamut of contemporary issues and universal human preoccupations from a multinational point of view.
Like prior volumes, this collection includes work by aristocrats of the short form (Alice Munro, William Trevor) and its burgeoning bourgeoisie (Ha Jin, Lore Segal, Mary Gaitskill). Ha Jin’s “The Composer and His Parakeets” demonstrates how the love of a pet can unlock repressed emotions. In Anthony Doerr’s “Village 113,” attachment to place compels a woman’s return to an abandoned hamlet that will soon be underwater, courtesy of a giant dam project. An American eco-tourist happens upon a subtropical village where gender roles are mutable (Shannon Cain’s “The Necessity of Certain Behaviors”) and an androgynous Malay innkeeper agonizes over his teenage houseboy (Brittani Sonnenberg’s “Taiping”). Gaitskill compassionately characterizes a mother whose guilt over her own domestic failures is expressed in her observation of a neglected child (“The Little Boy”). Parenting as a double-edged sword is also the theme of Yiyun Li’s “Prison,” wherein a desperate couple strives to replace a dead daughter. Other highlights include Edward P. Jones’s “Bad Neighbors,” William Gass’s “A Little History of Modern Music” and Michel Faber’s “Bye-bye Natalia,” in which an HIV-positive Ukrainian woman pins her hopes on an e-mail-order marriage to a Montana rancher, until her willingness to compromise her selfhood for security is derailed by mawkish American music.
A little too heavy on selections from the likes of the New Yorker and Harpers. Still, an invaluable resource for students and aficionados of short fiction.