This highly Acclaimed collection of short stories by American writers contains only the best literary art of the past four decades. With a bias toward realism editors Raymond Carver and Tom Jenks have selected fiction that “tells a story”–and tells it with a masterful handling of language, situation, and insight.
But what is so special about this volume is that it mirrors our age, our concerns, and our lives. Whether it’s the end of a marriage, as in Bobbie Ann Manson’s “Shiloh,” or the struggle with self-esteem and weight in Andre Dubus’s “The Fat Girl,” the 36 works included her probe issues that give us that “shock of recognition” that is the hallmark of great art—wonderful, absorbing fiction that will be read and reread for decades to come.
In the introduction to this collection, Carver mentions an earlier volume, Short Story Masterpieces published in 1954. The 36 tales here, he says, are distinguished by a similar narrative durability and stand up to the classic stories of that earlier generation. No argument. These unexperimental stories are substantial, solid and, to a paragraph, satisfying. By American writers exclusively (the earlier collection was one-third English and Irish), the offerings are arranged alphabetically by author, from James Baldwin's ``Sonny's Blues'' to ``The Liar'' by Tobias Wolff. Between is an assortment of modern classics: Doctorow's powerful and lyric story of betrayal, ``Willi,'' Flannery O'Connor's chilling ``A Good Man Is Hard to Find,'' Roth's ``The Conversion of the Jews'' and Arthur Miller's near-perfect ``The Misfits.'' Other pleasures lie in the wisdom and dignity that mark ``Talk of Heroes'' by Carol Bly, in the characteristic energy of Elkins's ``A Poetics for Bullies,'' in the spare surprise of David Quammen's ``Walking Out'' and in the views of modern mall life from Bobbie Ann Mason, Joyce Carol Oates and Jayne Anne Phillips. There are also tales from Helprin, Brautigan, Bourjaily, Carver, Salter, Paley and others. Missing are authors, such as Cheever and Welty, whose works were included in the 1954 Masterpieces, as well as those writing outside the narrative tradition. While this is not a comprehensive collection, its selections are indeed masterpiecestestament to the hearty good health of the traditional modern short story and proof of the genre's continuing rewards. (April 3)