PRIZE STORIES 1988: The O. Henry Awards by William--Ed. Abrahams

PRIZE STORIES 1988: The O. Henry Awards

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KIRKUS REVIEW

It becomes less clear why Abrahams persists in awarding a prize-above-all-others to one selection here; half the time or more, it goes to the wrong one. This time the mistake is a whopper, chief kudos having been awarded to Raymond Carver's ""Errand,"" a stow about Chekhov's death that is half-biographical retelling and half-speculative reconstruction. It's Carver at his most stagily dignified and unconvincing--a story of bathos, really. (Poor Chekhov--everyone hangs the sloppiest, most pious writing all over him, hoping to be redeemed by his imagination and tact.) If Abrahams had to single out one story, he'd have been on firmer ground with the also included ""Bumblebees"" by Bobble Ann Mason--a gorgeous pastoral of grief, a new direction for Mason--or with Elizabeth Spencer's small-town Southern cosmos found in ""The Business Venture,"" or newcomer Philip F. Deaver's ""Arcola Girls,"" a Peter-Taylor-like tale of the mystery that is young girls in groups. Andre Dubus' ""Blessings,"" a little less successful, is filled with a terrifying awe, a scary story really; Joyce Carol Oates is at her deterministic best in ""Yarrow""; works by Peter La Salle and Salvatore La Puma are charming and fresh. The rest is minor-form work--stories by Alice Adams, Shirley Hazzard, Joy Williams, John Updike, Ann Beattie. Good stuff here, then, if you can get past the crowned gate-keeper, the treacly trumped-up Carver story.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1988
Publisher: Doubleday