PRIZE STORIES 1995 by William Abrahams


The O. Henry Awards
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 The 75th and latest in the O.Henry series: a mixed bag of 21 stories that are mostly familiar trots by such perennials as Updike, Oates, and Gilchrist, but with impressive work from a relative newcomer, Edward J. Delaney. The First Prize, ``The Women Come and Go,'' by Cornelia Nixon (The New England Review), recounts with novelistic compression the coming-to-adulthood of Margy, a musical protÇgÇ, and her friends in the Sixties; the story is evocative but slight and sentimental, rushing through its territory without lingering often enough in the right places. Far better is ``The Drowning''--the Delaney story (The Atlantic Monthly) or, more exactly, the story-within-a-story told by a son about his father, a priest in politically troubled Ireland who pretends to drown and escapes from the old country; the piece shadows its own logic without rush or cant. Of the rest, Alison Baker's ``Loving Wanda Beaver'' (The Gettysburg Review), about Oleander Joy--a woman in love with detasseling corn and with Wanda Beaver--is memorable comic relief that climaxes when Oleander has her way with Wanda. Updike, meanwhile, is his gracious and subtle self in ``The Black Room'' (The New Yorker--where else?), about an elderly mother and her middle-aged son who return to the old house for a look-see; and Oates, in ``You Petted Me, and I Followed You Home'' (The Ontario Review), offers a dog story that's finally too shrill. Several stories, like ``Settled on the Cranberry Coast,'' by Michael Byers (The Missouri Review), are dreary epistles--slices-of-life that are emblematic of the self- parody so evident these days on the lit-mag scene. A mostly disappointing collection: too many names appear as if by rote, too many of the lesser-knowns are slight or derivative.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-385-47354-0
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1995