THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES, 1985 by Shannon Ravenel

THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES, 1985

KIRKUS REVIEW

Though nothing dramatically robs you of breath in this year's selection, Godwin has welcomely restored an element missing from recent roundups: sex. The last few volumes of the celeb-writer editions have seemed oddly neutered, but not so here. Otherwise, the split and mix between straight realism and writing-workshop filigree is about standard. Best of the realism (though it has by now an individual and characteristic self-consciousness) is Russell Banks' "Sarah Cole: A Type of Love Story"--about a handsome man and a homely woman, a tale of moral irresponsibility as inevitable as it is densely strong; and Sharon Sheehe Stark's "The Johnstown Polka"--about a disaster victim one-upped; a story more appealing for its quirky but confident voice than for its slightly hackneyed construction. Of the academic fiction, the most artful is Michael Bishop's "Dogs' Lives"--dogs in a man's life--and Bev Jafek's "You've Come A Long Way, Mickey Mouse"--Mickey on a TV talk show (bubbly and smart if more than a tad too browbeaten by the manic stylistic gestures of a writer like Gordon Lish). Some stories seem mere simulacra: E.L. Doctorow tries to make like Walker Percy, in an existential mode (but only comes up with paranoia), in "The Leather Man." Norman Rush does a mock-Naipaul in "Instruments of Seduction" (which is, however, one of the more skillful sexual stories here). Maybe most interesting, mainly for its unusual premise, is Bharati Mukherjee's "Angela"--a Bangladeshi teen-ager growing up as the adopted daughter of Iowa parents; while Margaret Edwards' "Roses" has a quiet velocity about it that suggests a moment completely removed from time, a hardeyed idyll. Apart from the Banks, though, little is memorable here.
Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1985
ISBN: 0395390583
Page count: 300pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1985




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