Synopses & Reviews
In her introduction to The Best American Short Stories 2011
, Geraldine Brooks draws the comparison between a well-told joke and a good short story. She writes, “Each form relies on suggestion and economy. Characters have to be drawn in a few deft strokes. There's generally a setup, a reveal, a reversal, and a release... In the joke and in the short story, the beginning and end are precisely anchored tent poles, and what lies between must pull so taut it twangs.”
The twenty tightly crafted stories collected here are full of deftly drawn characters, universal truths, and often, like good jokes, surprising humor. Richard Powers's “To the Measures Fall” is a comic meditation on the uses of literature in the course of a life. In the satirical “The Sleep,” Caitlin Horrocks puts her fictional prairie town to bed — the inhabitants hibernate through the long winter as a form of escape — while in Steve Millhauser's imagined town the citizens are visited by ghostlike apparitions in “The Phantoms.” Allegra Goodman's spare but beautiful “La Vita Nuova” finds a jilted fiancée letting her art class paint all over her wedding dress as a poignant act of release. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wryly captures the social change in the air in Lagos, Nigeria, in her story of a wealthy young man who is not entirely at ease with what his life has become.
As Brooks pursued these richly imagined and varied landscapes she found that “it was like walking into the best kind of party, where you can hole up in a corner with old friends for a while, then launch out among interesting strangers.”
"Children and their parents feature prominently, if predictably, in this year's collection, which includes stories by three Pulitzer Prize-winners. Some of the stronger pieces such as Sam Lipsyte's 'The Dungeon Master,' about an endearing young cast of misfit fantasy-game players, and Ricardo Nuila's 'Dog Bites,' in which a pedantic but loving father helps his son navigate the perils of Little League and life without Mom tackle the difficulties of adolescence with fresh humor and vigor. Though most of the stories stick to a neutral third-person perspective, or feature an older first-person narrator reflecting on youth, one notable exception is Richard Powers' excellent 'To the Measures Fall,' which is written in the second-person and poses piercing questions to the reader as the story follows the main character from her young adulthood to death. In Joyce Carol Oates's bleak and heartfelt 'ID,' a 13-year-old girl must identify her dead mother at the morgue. In George Saunders' 'Escape from Spiderhead,' inmates at a futuristic prison enact hilarious, disturbing tests upon one another. Though many of the names here are familiar, this powerful new work re-establishes these authors' command of the form. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"In this anthology series celebrating American short fiction annually since 1915, each year a different renowned writer chooses the best 20 stories of that year...Brooks does the honors impressively.
--Booklist "Though many of the names here are familiar, this powerful new work re-establishes these authors' command of the form."
--Publishers Weekly "Another stellar selection from an anthology that has sustained high standards for 35 years..Each one of these stories could establish itself as some readers favorite."
Edited by the award-winning, best-selling author Geraldine Brooks, this year’s collection will be another "sure bet for gripping, emotional challenging reading" (San Diego Union-Tribune). With Brooks picking the best of the best, America’s oldest and best-selling story anthology is sure to satisfy this year.
A collection of the year's best short stories from American periodicals as chosen by Pulizer Prize author Geraldine Brooks.
The Best American Series®
First, Best, and Best-Selling
The Best American series is the premier annual showcase for the country's finest short fiction and nonfiction. Each volumes series editor selects notable works from hundreds of magazines, journals, and websites. A special guest editor, a leading writer in the field, then chooses the best twenty or so pieces to publish. This unique system has made the Best American series the most respected — and most popular — of its kind.
The Best American Short Stories 2011 includes
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Megan Mayhew Bergman, Jennifer Egan,
Nathan Englander, Allegra Goodman,
Ehud Havazelet, Rebecca Makkai, Steven Millhauser,
George Saunders, Mark Slouka, and others.
About the Author
Geraldine Brooks was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 2006 for her novel March
. Her first novel, Year of Wonders
, is an international bestseller, and her novel People of the Book
was a New York Times
bestseller translated into 20 languages. She is also the author of the nonfiction works Nine Parts of Desire
and Foreign Correspondence
Heidi Pitlor is a former senior editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. She is the author of the novel The Birthdays and has a novel coming in 2014.