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The Best American Short Stories 2004 (Best American Short Stories)by Lorrie Moore and Katrina Kenison
Synopses & Reviews
Contemplating the appeal of the short story, Lorrie Moore writes in her introduction, "A story's very shortness ensures its largeness of accomplishment, its selfhood and purity. Having long lost its ability to pay an author's rent (in that golden blip between Henry James and television, F. Scott Fitzgerald, for one, wrote stories to fund his novels), the short story has been freed of its commercial life to become serious art, by virtually its every practitioner. As a result, short or long, a story lies less. It sings and informs and blurts. It has nothing to lose."
The twenty stories in this year's volume sing to and inform the reader with honesty, intelligence, and often humor. Charles D'Ambrosio's story, "Screenwriter," explores romance in a mental hospital. In "Limestone Diner," Trudy Lewis lays bare one family's strained history in central Missouri. Angela Pneuman's hilarious "All Saints Day" gives readers a child's-eye view of religious fundamentalism. And in John Edgar Wideman's profound story, "What We Cannot Speak About We Must Pass Over in Silence," friendship leads to a meditation on freedom and fairness. Lorrie Moore has selected twenty stories that rejoice in the absurdities of life, consider the hard truths, and arrive at potent moments of understanding. With The Best American Short Stories 2004 "Lorrie Moore has done writers and readers a great service," Katrina Kenison writes in her foreword, "for her own love of the form and keen sensibility have resulted in a volume that fairly hums with life."
"Moore takes a tried and true tack in this current edition of the popular series, choosing solid stories that rely more on careful character development and seamless writing than on inventiveness or stylistic flash. The results are occasionally stodgy, but there are plenty of satisfying entries, if few startling ones. Family relations are a recurring theme, and two stories of note unearth family ghosts. In John Edgar Wideman's 'What We Cannot Speak About We Must Pass Over in Silence,' a man is enmeshed in the life of his deceased friend's jailed son; in Trudy Lewis's 'Limestone Diner,' a grandmother comes to terms with her past through the tragic accident of a local girl. Most stories are firmly rooted in the U.S., but a few roam cautiously afield. In 'The Tutor,' set in India, Nell Freudenberger explores the dynamics of an expatriate father and daughter relationship; 'Mirror Studies' by Mary Yukari Waters takes place in Japan and interestingly weaves in monkey studies. The selection favors well-known writers, including Alice Munro, Annie Proulx and John Updike, and some readers may wish for a more varied lineup — the New Yorker is the source of eight of the 20 entries — but there's no arguing with the power of most of these offerings by the heavy hitters of the contemporary canon." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] gem among annual story anthologies....These stories challenge us to grasp the lives they figure and to reckon with their implications..." Booklist
"This year's anthology of 20 stories could almost be called The Best of The New Yorker....A familiar and ultimately disappointing selection. Short-story aficionados know by now to turn to the Pushcart anthologies for new voices." Kirkus Reviews
The first and bestselling volume of its kind showcases the country's finest short fiction. This year's stories come handpicked by a beloved master of the form and are sure to feature more unforgettable characters and extraordinary writing.
Since its inception in 1915, the Best American series has become the premier annual showcase for the country's finest short fiction and nonfiction. For each volume, a series editor reads pieces from hundreds of periodicals, then selects between fifty and a hundred outstanding works. That selection is pared down to twenty or so very best pieces by a guest editor who is widely recognized as a leading writer in his or her field. This unique system has helped make the Best American series the most respected — and most popular — of its kind.Lorrie Moore brings her keen eye for wit and surprise to the volume, and The Best American Short Stories 2004 is an eclectic and enthralling gathering of well-known voices and talented up-and-comers. Here are stories that probe the biggest issues: ambition, gender, romance, war. Here are funny and touching and striking tales of a Spokane Indian, the estranged wife of an Iranian immigrant, an American tutor in Bombay. In her introduction Lorrie Moore writes, "The stories collected here impressed me with their depth of knowledge and feeling of character, setting, and situation . . . They spoke with amused intelligence, compassion, and dispassion."
About the Author
Katrina Kenison has been the series editor of The Best American Short Stories since 1990. She currently resides in Massachusetts.
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