Synopses & Reviews
My sense in reading the assemblage of stories collected here is that the Western short story is still very much finding its way--which is, I think, as it should be. Only miracles--like Annie Proulx's] Sagebrush Kid--can be expected to leap fully formed from the soil, ready, in an instant, to meet our every expectation. The form and essence of a Western short story seems to be a work in progress, one which, if I were to place my bets, will continue to be sculpted by the extremes of geography and by immigration: by a ceaseless procession of strangers riding into town, even as other strangers--often magnificent strangers--are going rapidly extinct. Future Western short stories will also continue to be shaped by the yet undefinable and probably always undefinable thing--a certain largeness of spirit. The best and strongest of these stories shimmer with that thing, which, though invisible, somehow yet makes itself known powerfully. --Rick Bass, from the foreword
Best of the West: New Stories from the Wide Side of the Missouri, an annual anthology of exceptional short fiction rooted in the western United States, debuted in 1988 and continued publication until 1992. Recognizing that the West remains rewarding territory for literary explorations, James Thomas and Seth Horton are now reviving the series in Best of the West 2009.
Thomas and Horton combed some 250 literary journals and magazines to gather these eighteen stories published since the fall of 2007. They come from both emerging and established writers, including Lee K. Abbott, Louise Erdrich, Dagoberto Gilb, Antonya Nelson, Joyce Carol Oates, and Annie Proulx. Like Bass, the editors believe the Western short story inhabits a wide territory; the subjects in this collection range from illegal immigrants tending illegal crops in California's national forests, to mismatched Mormon missionaries on the conversion trail in Nevada, to a Native American college student exploring her sexuality, to Papa Hemingway's meditations as he loads the shotgun in his Idaho cabin. As these stories make clear, the West continues to shape our literary landscape. Thomas and Horton have preserved the best of that work in this vital anthology.