THE BEACON BEST OF 1999 by Ntozake Shange

THE BEACON BEST OF 1999

Creative Writing by Women and Men of All Colors
edited by

KIRKUS REVIEW

paper 0-8070-6221-9 A literary buffet with treats so exquisitely sculpted that Martha Stewart would grimace with envy. Eclecticism is the key word to describe Shange’s (If I Can Cook/You Know You Can, 1998, etc.) editorial selections, yet her eye for variety never overlooks the art of good writing. The short stories include real and timely treasures, such as Gish Jen’s “Who’s Irish?,” which probes the fault lines between Chinese- and Irish-American families, and Junot Diaz’s “The Sun, the Moon, the Stars,” which presents a protagonist looking for love and empathy who comes up empty. The poems of the collection capture lucent insights into the human condition, brief musings on the questions involved in being human. Stand-outs among them are Marilene Phipps’s “pink,” which roars for identity in the narrator’s struggle to hold onto one item—a pink T-shirt—that defines her, and Denise Levertov’s “A New Flower,” which finds hope and regeneration in a wilting sunflower. Essays by such writers as Brenda Miller (“The Date”), Laura Wexler (“Waiting for Amelia”), and Neil Davidson (“Goodbye, Johnnie Walker”) round out the collection with their respective musings on courtship, role models, and life as a recovering alcoholic at the Betty Ford Clinic. Side by side with luminaries (including Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Jamaica Kincaid, Dorothy Allison, Barbara Kingsolver, and Rita Dove) are new and exciting artists whose fame awaits them. The only portion to be skipped is Shange’s regrettable introduction, which piles on platitudes about the ancient human urge to depict. The blend of the familiar with the novel is one among many reason Shange’s collection remains so compelling to the very end.

Pub Date: Oct. 21st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8070-6220-0
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1999




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