Though certainly not the last word on American short fiction, a collection of uncommonly high value.

100 YEARS OF THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES

An anthology of an anthology, packed with some of the best short fiction ever committed to print.

Aficionados of the “Getting Things Done” system of time management will appreciate that Best American Short Stories founding editor Edward J. O’Brien was “almost pathologically organized,” useful for dealing with the flood of stories he received on conceiving the annual prize volume. That was back when short stories, as the editors note, “were the preferred entertainment in the United States,” not the currency of MFA workshops and suburban book clubs. Tastes change: there’s a world of difference between Ring Lardner and Jamaica Kincaid, and if the two might have enjoyed a conversation, the editors might have commented a touch more about how the short story genre has evolved in the century since O’Brien got to work. For the moment, it’s worth marveling at how Edna Ferber’s “The Gay Old Dog” reflects a world gone by in its very title, an age of “loop-hounds,” kerchiefs, and waistcoats; one wonders whether George Saunders’ postmodernly busy “The Semplica-Girl Diaries” will seem similarly fusty a century from now, whether Robert Stone’s evocations of the Vietnam War will have any meaning then. There are classic and even some canonical pieces in the book and plenty of big names from Hemingway and Cheever to Munro and Oates, and if there are no surprises here—after all, they’re known prizewinners, with all the baggage good and ill that prizes carry—an aspiring writer could do worse than have this as a handbook. Some standouts: Sherman Alexie’s sharply observed portrait of Skid Row (“Rose of Sharon, Junior, and I carried our $20 bill and our five dollars in loose change over to the 7-Eleven and bought three bottles of imagination”); Akhil Sharma’s portrait of Indian immigrant life, “If You Sing Like That for Me”; and Moore’s highly entertaining if refractive introduction.

Though certainly not the last word on American short fiction, a collection of uncommonly high value.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-547-48585-0

Page Count: 752

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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