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

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. 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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