In his introduction to this volume, Stephen King writes, Talent does more than come out; it bursts out, again and again, doing exuberant cartwheels while the band plays 'Stars and Stripes Forever' . . . Talent can’t help itself; it roars along in fair weather or foul, not sparing the fireworks. It gets emotional. It struts its stuff. In fact, that’s its job.”
Wonderfully eclectic, The Best American Short Stories 2007 collects stories by writers of undeniable talent, both newcomers and favorites. These stories examine the turning points in life when we, as children or parents, lovers or friends or colleagues, must break certain rules in order to remain true to ourselves. In T. C. Boyle’s heartbreaking Balto,” a thirteen-year-old girl provides devastating courtroom testimony in her father’s trial. Aryn Kyle’s charming story Allegiance” shows a young girl caught between her despairing British mother and motherly American father. In The Bris,” Eileen Pollack brilliantly writes of a son struggling to fulfill his filial obligations, even when they require a breach of morality and religion. Kate Walbert’s stunning Do Something” portrays one mother’s impassioned and revolutionary refusal to accept her son’s death. And in Richard Russo’s graceful Horseman,” an English professor comes to understand that plagiarism reveals more about a student than original work can.
New series editor Heidi Pitlor writes, [Stephen King’s] dedication, unflagging hard work, and enthusiasm for excellent writing shone through on nearly a daily basis this past year . . . We agreed, disagreed, and in the end very much concurred on the merit of the twenty stories chosen.” The result is a vibrant assortment of stories and voices brimming with attitude, deep wisdom, and rare compassion.
King admits in his introduction that he prefers "all-out emotionally assaultive" stories to those that might appeal to his "critical nose." Yet King's selections are right at home among those of recent BASS editors Lorrie Moore, Michael Chabon and Walter Mosley: John Barth's darkly comic take on aging and mortality; a child's unforgiving view of her alcoholic parent from T.C. Boyle; an exploration of the grief of a crystal meth addict by William Gay (a writer King notes is a relatively obscure "American talent"); Lauren Groff's piece about a polio survivor learning to swim during the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic (based loosely on real-life Olympian Ethelda Bleibtrey); Roy Kesey's imagining of an airport terminal as microcosm of global politics; and Karen Russell's halfway house for the human children of werewolves ("their condition skips a generation"). Stories drawing on horror and on Maine add a personal King touch to this year's cull of 20, taken from among the 4,000 that series editor Pitlor read last year in periodicals. The book reflects the variety of substance and style and the consistent quality that readers have come to expect from the series, now in its 30th year. (Oct.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information