100 Years of The Best American Short Stories
100 Years of The Best American Short Stories
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These forty stories represent their eras but also stand the test of time. Here is Ernest Hemingway’s first published story and a classic by William Faulkner, who admitted in his biographical note that he began to write “as an aid to love-making.” Nancy Hale’s story describes far-reaching echoes of the Holocaust; Tillie Olsen’s story expresses the desperation of a single mother; James Baldwin depicts the bonds of brotherhood and music. Here is Raymond Carver’s “minimalism,” a term he disliked, and Grace Paley’s “secular Yiddishkeit.” Here are the varied styles of Donald Barthelme, Charles Baxter, and Jamaica Kincaid. From Junot Díaz to Mary Gaitskill, from ZZ Packer to Sherman Alexie, these writers and stories explore the different things it means to be American.
Moore writes that the process of assembling these stories allowed her to look “thrillingly not just at literary history but at actual history — the cries and chatterings, silences and descriptions of a nation in flux.” 100 Years of The Best American Short Stories is an invaluable testament, a retrospective of our country’s ever-changing but continually compelling literary artistry.
LORRIE MOORE, after many years as a professor of creative writing at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, is now the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English at Vanderbilt University. Moore has received honors for her work, among them the Irish Times International Fiction Prize and a Lannan Foundation fellowship, as well as the PEN/Malamud Award and the Rea Award for her achievement in the short story. Her most recent novel, A Gate at the Stairs, was short-listed for the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction and for the PEN/Faulkner Award, and her most recent story collection, Bark, was short-listed for the Story Prize and the Frank O’Connor Award.
HEIDI PITLOR is a former senior editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and has been the series editor of The Best American Short Stories since 2007. She is the author of the novels The Birthdays and The Daylight Marriage.
from here, you mean—to live?” Carrie laid down her fork. “Well, really, Jo! After all that explanation.” “But to go over there to live! Why, that neighborhood’s full of dirt, and disease, and crime, and the Lord knows what all. I can’t let you do that, Carrie.” Carrie’s chin came up. She laughed a short little laugh. “Let me! That’s eighteenth-century talk, Jo. My life’s my own to live. I’m going.” And she went. Jo stayed on in the apartment until the lease was up. Then he sold what furniture
until the shows closed and then sat in Franklin Park, at Fourteenth and K, in good weather and bad. He was there until sleep beckoned, sometimes as late as two in the morning. No one bothered him. He had killed two men, and the world, especially the bad part of it, sensed that and left him alone. He knew no one, and he wanted no one to know him. The friends he had had before Lorton seemed to have been swept off the face of the earth. On the penultimate day of his time at Lorton, he had awoken
“Do not talk about their son,” Shoshana says. “Do not talk about our son,” Deb says. This time I reach across and lay a hand on her elbow. “Talk,” I say. “He does not,” Mark says, “seem Jewish to me.” “How can you say that?” Deb says. “What is wrong with you?” But Deb’s upset draws less attention than my response. I’m laughing so hard that everyone turns toward me. “What?” Mark says. “Jewish to you?” I say. “The hat, the beard, the blocky shoes. A lot of pressure, I’d venture, to look
wildly hungry. And I’m going to panic if the only kosher thing in the house is that loaf of bleached American bread.” “You have the munchies,” I say. “Diagnosis correct,” he says. Deb starts clapping at that, tiny claps, her hands held to her chest in prayer. She says to him, absolutely beaming, “You will not even believe what riches await.” The four of us stand in the pantry, soaking wet, hunting through the shelves and dripping on the floor. “Have you ever seen such a pantry?” Shoshana
I had of her when she was younger. The way I always see her is the way she used to be on a Sunday afternoon, say, when the old folks were talking after the big Sunday dinner. I always see her wearing pale blue. She’d be sitting on the sofa. And my father would be sitting in the easy chair, not far from her. And the living room would be full of church folks and relatives. There they sit, in chairs all around the living room, and the night is creeping up outside, but nobody knows it yet. You can