As ever, a welcome portrait of the state of the art in contemporary short fiction writing, a literature of resistance.

THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 2018

Politically charged, diverse installment of the long-running literary annual.

Writes general editor Pitlor, American fiction writers today work in an atmosphere of political decline, racism, corruption, and casual violence, and consequently they “are now faced with the significant challenge of producing work that will sustain a reader’s attention amid this larger narrative.” Adds volume editor Gay, who read 120 submissions to make this anthology, “I thought about this cultural moment and what it means to both write politically and read politically.” The stories included here are of a uniformly high quality, without a dud among them, though it has to be said that only some of them are overt in their political stance, even if many concern the lives of those who are essentially powerless in an American arena that has become truly Darwinian. On that note, the opening story concerns a young man who, living in a trailer on the edge of a Montana forest, must face two essential losses, one the disappearance of his father (“One member of the search committee, a homeless asshole there for the free lunch, pulled me aside and told me it was 'them aliens’ who took my father”), the other the death of the family dog via a mountain lion that, after all, is just doing its job. Maria Anderson’s "Cougar," from the Iowa Review, is a masterpiece of charged compression; there’s a lot happening in the space of just a few pages. Other standouts are Esmé Weijun Wang’s “What Terrible Thing It Was,” a delicate story of madness (“Even knowing that I am not alone would be its own strange balm”) that could just as easily appear in a horror anthology, and Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s “Control Negro,” whose double-edged title speaks volumes to the terrible price an African-American pays for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As ever, a welcome portrait of the state of the art in contemporary short fiction writing, a literature of resistance.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-58288-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more