The Best American Short Stories 2008 gathers an array of inventive and unforgettable stories. Favorite and newcomer writers explore contemporary topics such as cloning, literary envy, cults, and teenage sex, as well as timeless subjects: love, sibling rivalry, immigration, and religion.
In Kevin Brockmeier’s stunning The Year of Silence,” an unnamed city must face the absence of all sound, followed by an excess of noise. Katie Chase’s bold and unsettling story, Man and Wife,” her first one published, brings to life an arranged marriage between a nine-year-old and a grown man. In A. M. Homes’s May We Be Forgiven,” two brothers’ rivalry undoes their marriages and eventually their lives. Nicole Krauss writes of an inherited desk that comes to represent the burden of memory for a poet in her beautiful story, From the Desk of Daniel Varsky.” And Stephen Millhauser’s ingenious The Wizard of West Orange” imagines Edison and his colleagues inventing machines dedicated to the sense of touch.
In his introduction, Salman Rushdie writes, Some of these stories are immense, the so-called grand narratives’ of nation, race, and faith, and others are small: family stories, and stories of elective affinities, of the friends we choose, the places we know, and the people we love; but we all live in and with and by stories, every day, whoever and wherever we are.” The cultural relevance and intellectual potential of the short story are on display in this year’s volume of the best-selling collection.
Salman Rushdie selects the best 20 stories of the year. Alice Munro offers a chilling tale, "Child's Play," of two young girls who drown a fellow camper while away for the summer, an act which drives the fast friends apart. In T.C. Boyle's "Admiral," a college graduate returns to her high-school dogsitting job only to find that the dog is not quite the same as when she'd left it. Rather, the owners have cloned him, which leaves the lonely narrator in a quandary when she is wooed by a handsome young animal-rights activist. With "Galatea," Karen Brown enters the mind of a young woman who has unknowingly become seduced by, and quickly marries, a small-town stalker who takes pleasure in entering the homes of young women. Allegra Goodman's tragedy "Closely Held" is quieter, chronicling the slow demise of both the dreams and the relationship of a brilliant computer programmer. And Kevin Brockmeier, departing from realism, wonders what would happen if the world suddenly became silent ("The Year of Silence"). Perhaps the most harrowing story comes from A.M. Homes. In "May We Be Forgiven," the vitriolic relationship between two aging brothers becomes explosive after a tragic accident. When the brother responsible for the accident returns home from a mental hospital, he finds his sibling in a compromising position and lashes out. A bleak but brilliant collection.