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The Best American Short Stories of the Centuryby John Updike and Katrina Kenison
Synopses & Reviews
Since its debut volume 85 years ago, publication of The Best American Short Stories has been a regular literary event, providing an annual showcase for America's greatest established writers and consistently discovering and introducing the best talent of the upcoming generation. Just one writer, though, has the distinction of being published in the series five decades running: John Updike. It is therefore fitting that Updike, America's reigning literary patriarch, was chosen to edit this collection. These 55 stories were chosen from the entire archive of Best American Stories (since the series inception in 1915), a pool of over two thousand. Each in their turn was originally chosen from thousands of stories published that year in the country's most prestigious journals and periodicals. As Updike notes, "A fathomless ocean of rejection and exclusion surrounds this brave little flotilla, the best of the best." Included are most of the accepted 20th century masters of the short story: Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Flannery O'Connor, John Cheever, Raymond Carver, etc. But Updike also uncovered some forgotten gems. How many, for example, still remember Benjamin Rosenblatt or Grace Stone Coates? In his selection of contemporary authors, as well, Updike did not limit himself to the usual suspects; included are fine (though relatively unknown) writers such as Alice Elliott Dark and Carolyn Ferrell. "I tried," Updike explains, "not to select stories because they illustrated a theme or portion of the national experience, but because they struck me as lively, beautiful, believable, and, in the human news they brought, important."
The incomparable John Updike selects the fifty-five finest short stories from America's oldest and best-selling anthology, published since 1915 Since the series' inception in 1915, the annual volumes of The Best American Short Stories have launched literary careers, showcased the most compelling stories of each year, and confirmed for all time the significance of the short story in our national literature.
Now The Best American Short Stories of the Century brings together the best of the best --- fifty-five extraordinary stories that represent a century's unsurpassed accomplishments in this quintessentially American literary genre. Here are the stories that have endured the test of time: masterworks by such writers as Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Willa Cather, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Saroyan, Flannery O'Connor, John Cheever, Eudora Welty, Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, Raymond Carver, Cynthia Ozick, and scores of others. These are the writers who have shaped and defined the landscape of the American short story, who have unflinchingly explored all aspects of the human condition, and whose works will continue to speak to us as we enter the next century. Their artistry is represented splendidly in these pages.
The Best American Short Stories series has also always been known for making literary discoveries, and discovery proved to be an essential part of selecting the stories for this volume too. Collections from years past yielded a rich harvest of surprises, stories that may have been forgotten but still retain their relevance and luster. The result is a volume that not only gathers some of the most significant stories of our century between two covers but resurrects a handful of lost literary gems as well.
Of all the great writers whose work has appeared in the series, only John Updike's contributions have spanned five consecutive decades, from his first appearance, in 1959, to his most recent, in 1998. Updike worked with series editor Katrina Kenison to choose stories from each decade that meet his own high standards of literary quality. "I tried not to select stories because they illustrated a theme or portion of the national experience," he explains, "but because they struck me as lively, beautiful, believable, and, in the human news they brought, important."
"...a thrillingly energized argument for the enduring vitality of big ideas in small packages." Entertainment Weekly
"Finding wonderful stories that you don't already know is one of this collection's great pleasures... " The New York Times
Since the series' inception in 1915, the annual volumes of The Best American Short Stories have launched literary careers, showcased the most compelling stories of each year, and confirmed for all time the significance of the short story in our national literature. Now THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES OF THE CENTURY brings together the best — fifty-six extraordinary stories that represent a century's worth of unsurpassed achievements in this quintessentially American literary genre. This expanded edition includes a new story from The Best American Short Stories 1999 to round out the century, as well as an index including every story published in the series.
Of all the writers whose work has appeared in the series, only John Updike has been represented in each of the last five decades, from his first appearance, in 1959, to his most recent, in 1998. Updike worked with coeditor Katrina Kenison to choose the finest stories from the years since 1915. The result is "extraordinary . . . A one-volume literary history of this country's immeasurable pains and near-infinite hopes" (Boston Globe).
Including one new story and an Index by author of every story that has ever appeared in the series, this new volume offers a "spectacular tapestry of fictional achievement" ("Entertainment Weekly").
About the Author
John Updike is the author of numerous books, including the acclaimed Rabbit novels, Couples, In the Beauty of the Lilies, and Bech at Bay. His novels have won the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, the American Book Award, the National Book Critics' Circle Award, and the William Dean Howells Medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Recently he received the 1998 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.Katrina Kenison has been the series editor of The Best American Short Stories since 1990. She currently resides in Massachusetts.
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