The Best American Short Stories of the Century  - Slightly Imperfect  -     Edited By: John Updike, Katrina Kenison
    By: Edited by John Updike & Katrina Kenison
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The Best American Short Stories of the Century - Slightly Imperfect

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt / 1999 / Hardcover

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Product Description

Since the series' incept in 1915, the annual volumes of The Best American Short Stories have launched literary careers, showcased the most compelling stories of each year, and confirmed for all time the significance of the short in our national literature. Now The Best American Short Stories of the Century brings together the best of the best: fifty-six extraordinary short stories that represent a century's worth of unsurpassed accomplishments in this quintessentially American literary genre. This expanded edition includes a new story from The Best American Short Stories 1999 to round out the century, as well as an index including every story published in the series.
Of all the writers whose work has appeared in the series, only John Updike has been represented in each of the last five decades from his first appearance in 1959, to his most recent, in 1998. Updike worked with coeditor Katrina Kenison to choose the finest stories from the years since 1915.

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 774
Vendor: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: 1999
Dimensions: 9.3 X 6.50 (inches)
ISBN: 0395843685
ISBN-13: 9780395843680
Availability: In Stock

Library Journal

The only author to be included in Best American Short Stories in every decade since the 1950s, John Updike was chosen to select those stories best representing the American century since the series inception in 1915. Being limited to those originally chosen for the annual volumes, Updike admits that past editors may have overlooked some gems. But he makes a valiant effort to include all the masters of the form, from Faulkner, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald, through Cheever, OConnor, and Malamud, to Carver and Munro. Though one might question whether an individual choice is really one of the best of the century, as a whole the collection presents a microcosm of 20th-century American life: the immigrant experience (many of the early stories), the Roaring Twenties (Fitzgerald), World War II (Roth) and the Holocaust (Malamud and Ozick), 1950s suburban values (Cheever) and their rejection by 1960s youth culture (Oates), Vietnam (OBrien), and AIDS (Sontag and Dark). Many of the stories are famous and easily found elsewhere, but there are some rare surprises like a semi-autobiographical piece by Tennessee Williams. Recommended for most public libraries, and for those academic libraries that no longer hold all the annual volumes. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/98.]Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Idaho Lib., Moscow

Publisher's Weekly

The task had to be daunting, selecting the 55 stories that grace this volume. The title alone is daunting: the best? But the riches contained--including a foreword by Kenison and a deft introduction from Updike--prove the title accurate. Consider the resources mined: 2000 stories anthologized in annual best-of volumes since 1915. Although certain notable story writers, John O'Hara for one, never made it into the series and others who did have been crowded out of this volume, the stories excavated and displayed herein are gems. Often these are the gems one would expect--such as John Cheever's balance of the magical and the sinister in "The Country Husband," about an inappropriate desire that floods a man after a plane crash. What story captures better than "Greenleaf" Flannery O'Connor's affrontery before Protestantism and her vision of unearned grace? And would readers expect anything less of Dorothy Parker than "Here We Are," a scathing yet poignant depiction of a newly married couple bickering like old retirees? Indeed, the volume includes such signature stories as Joyce Carol Oates's "Where Are You Going, where Have You Been?," Cynthia Ozick's "The Shawl," Raymond Carver's "Where I'm Calling From" and Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried." But some stories here by the well-known are not necessarily the best known. Fitzgerald is represented not by "Babylon Revisited" but by "Crazy Sunday," about the perilous life of a screenwriter employed at a director's whim. The transient world captured in Eudora Welty's "The Hitch-Hikers" seems far removed from the homier gardens, parlors, and post offices familiar from her other fiction. And readers can be grateful that Updike chose not "The Magic Barrel" but Bernard Malamud's "The German Refugee," a tale that ends with a dark if O. Henry-like reversal. In Kenison's words, these stories are "an invaluable record of our century." The book opens with Benjamin Rosenblatt's "Zelig," a tale of an immigrant who longs against reason to return to Russia. Immigration is a recurring theme, picked up again in Alexander Godin's sadly ironic "My Dead Brother Comes to America," And that we are nearly all descendants of immigrants is --as apparent in Willa Cather's "Double Birthday" or Saul Bellow's "A Silver Dish" as in Gish Jen's bitterly funny "Birthmates," about a Chinese-American as trapped by his self-definition as by the racism of others. In his introduction, Updike writes, "The American experience... has been brutal and hard." The stories bear this out. In Elizabeth Bishop's "The Farmer's Children," two boys freeze protecting their father's equipment, while in Grace Stone Coates's lovely "Wild Plums," a young girl is forbidden to gather fruit with a family her mother deems socially inferior. Life on this continent may be brutal, but this extraordinary collection offers up dazzling writing that salves the wounds, as well as stories full of the pleasures of life. (Apr.)

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