PRIZE STORIES 1979: The O. Henry Awards by William--Ed. Abrahams

PRIZE STORIES 1979: The O. Henry Awards

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Abrahams' choice of the past year's notable short fiction is less glossy than its counterpart from Theodore Solotaroff (Best American Short Stories, 1978, p. 899). What polish there is--stories by Julie Hecht, Patricia Zelver, Henry Van Dyke, Richard Yates, Anne Leaton, Alice Adams--seems more waxy than shiny. There's also much drabness--from Henry Bromell, Steve Heller, Fred Pfiel, Annabel Thomas, Jonathan Baumbach, Anthony Caputi, Lynn Sharon Schwartz, Mary Bunker Peterson, and Thomas Disch; each of these pallid stories hugs desperately to a single conceit. And Abrahams' first prize goes to Gordon Weaver's nice enough but slightly too-wise ""Getting Serious,"" a nostalgia-gone-sour tale that seems interchangeable with one by Thomas Molyneux: composed, veiled memories of adolescent sexual warfare. But four selections here do stand out prominently--and since all but one are from low-circulation little magazines, they'll be new to most readers. Lester Goldberg's tale of a man revisiting the English countryside where he lived as a soldier after World War II seems more sculpted than written, detailed and effervescent and taking delightful turns. Joyce Carol Oates writes of the stately, shattering revelations visited upon an old, much-honored woman writer when she comes to be fˆted by a small college whose faculty includes the son of her ex-lover. There's Lee Smith's jittery, colorful, many-voiced narrative of grown daughters pestering their widowed mother at a seaside vacation to shape up, while the mother has already secretly done so, in strange ways. And Herbert Gold's cold, sad examination of a divorced couple's post-marriage sexual relationship, avid and punishing (""The Smallest Part""), is the volume's highlight: one of those rare short fictions that has the exhausting, broad impact that usually only comes with greater length. A truly impressive stand-out in a just-average collection.

Pub Date: April 27th, 1979
Publisher: Doubleday