A typically strong selection, though this year’s offerings are less international in setting and more often realistic than in some recent years.
As a popular novelist with a creative writing, graduate school pedigree, Perrotta (Little Children, 2004, etc.) proclaims his preference for “stories written in plain, artful language about ordinary people. I’m wary of narrative experiments and excessive stylistic virtuosity, suspicious of writing that feels exclusive or elitist.” Thus, he has applied those principles to his selections in serving as this year’s editor. In addition to the stories themselves, one of the highlights of the annual is the explanation by each writer of the genesis of the selected story, and it’s interesting how so many of these had an autobiographical seed and are filled with detail rooted in the writer’s experience. Not that any of these stories is straight memoir, but one of the most powerful, “Diem Perdidi” by Julie Otsuka, elicits this explanation from its award-winning author: “Writing it, I suppose, was my way of keeping my mother with me in the world, a way of being with her even as she was slipping away,” and such context deepens the resonance of a formally inspired narrative in which most of the sentences begin “She remembers...” and the main other character, whom the protagonist doesn’t necessarily remember, is “you.” Writes Otsuka, “She remembers that she is forgetting. She remembers less and less every day.” The anthology mixes selections from perennials such as Alice Munro (who could well be “the single writer who looms over this year’s collection—over the art of the short story as it’s practiced in America right now,” according to Perrotta), Nathan Englander, Mary Gaitskill and George Saunders (the most experimental of the lot), with others who have yet to become as well-known and are published in smaller literary magazines.
A selection that should please readers who love the traditional pleasures of storytelling, through voices that are thoroughly contemporary.