THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES, 1985
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.