The latest BASS, while full of talent, is ultimately an echo of successes past.
Although the nature of a series entitled “best” would seem to necessitate the occasional variation or skew, this year’s gathering is once more a collection perfectly balanced on lines of gender, ethnicity, and popularity of name. What luck. “[Stories] are far-flung islands that one comes upon in the limitless horizon of the sea. Not big islands like Hawaii, but small, craggy atolls inhabited by eclectic and nomadic life forms,” says guest editor Mosley, though not even he really seems to know what he means. There are standouts, of course: Dean Paschal’s “Moriya” is a Pinocchio knockoff about a New Orleans boy trying to “intersect” with the extremely lifelike mechanical doll of a young woman; a woman’s relationship with her professor in a semi-apocryphal world caught in an emergency (Nicole Krauss’s “Future Emergencies”) turns out to be only a test; Ryan Harty’s “Why the Sky Turns Red When the Sun Goes Down” is a hyper-real account of what happens when one’s robot child suffers from a seizure-like anomaly; and a father’s old life and delirium tremors may resurface in Dan Chaon’s “The Bees” when the new son of a new life begins to have a trauma of his own. BASS overtly favors hot literary magazines—Tin House, Zoetrope, etc.—and it wouldn’t be BASS if it didn’t have that marketable blend of new names and the few big names that guarantee the sales to match its marketing campaign. This year, those called to duty include Mona Simpson, E.L. Doctorow, Louise Erdrich, and Mary Yukari Waters.
Not bad, but far from the best—and not even the best anthology to have appeared this year.