With more than 50 stories, including work by Raymond Carver and Ellen Gilchrist, The Norton Book of American Short Stories offers a diversity of style and range of emotion that reflects the fertile culture of the American experience.
Intentionally avoiding any particular definition of the genre that might restrict his selection, Newsweek writer Prescott here assembles 70 stories that represent the history, range, and achievement of this distinctively American literary form, from Ben Franklin's neglected ``Speech of Polly Baker'' to Michael Martone's ``Biograph,'' a first-person account of John Dillinger's last days. Except for a few already over-anthologized worksJackson's ``The Lottery,'' Crane's ``The Open Boat,'' Aiken's ``Silent Snow, Secret Snow,'' for examplethese stories appear to have been chosen less for classroom use than for purely pleasurable reading. Nearly half are by authors still living. If not brilliant, this is at least a fresh, discriminating collection. Charles C. Nash, Cottey Coll., Nevada, Mo.