Any reader will likely discover a new favorite writer here, or more.

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THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 2010

Even by the consistently high standards of the venerable annual, this one’s a treat.

Since the year’s guest editor has the final selection, this volume reflects the penchant of novelist Russo for storytelling rather than postmodern experimentation or self-conscious wordplay. Offering a dictum from Isaac Bashevis Singer in the introduction that the purpose of literature is “to entertain and to instruct”—in that order—Russo has compiled a collection of consistently entertaining fiction that engages itself with this world (rather than conjuring its own world or reducing the world of fiction to words). “There are no triumphs of style over substance, and the language, while often beautiful and sometimes absolutely electric, is always in the service of narrative,” he writes. Yet the 20 stories are a varied lot, from lesser-knowns such as Maggie Shipstead (whose “The Cowboy Tango” suggests a narrative kinship with Annie Proulx) and Wayne Harrison (whose “Least Resistance” finds a young man caught in a romantic triangle with the wife of his mechanic boss and mentor) to mainstays including Charles Baxter and Jill McCorkle. It’s hard to resist a story that begins, “He wasn’t even a good lion tamer, not before you showed up” (“My Last Attempt To Explain to You What Happened with the Lion Tamer,” Brendan Mathews) or, “The day after Arty Groys and his wife retired to Florida, she was killed in a head-on collision with a man fleeing the state…” (“The Valetudinarian,” Joshua Ferris). Though the foreword by series editor Pitlor admits, “It is indisputable that American literary journals are in danger,” with even the few of the newsstand magazines that publish fiction publishing less of it, the stories themselves seem as vital as ever.

Any reader will likely discover a new favorite writer here, or more.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-547-05532-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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