Best American Short Stories

Sorry for the semi-longer-than-usual radio silence here. Been travelling, first for work and then for fun. I’m in Melbourne with Hassan now, finishing up our little vacay. It’s been great catching up with some of my old Clarion-mates in Brisbane and Melbourne. If only I could see everyone, though doing the Sydney-Wollongong-Perth-Adelaide-etc. circuit is probably a bit beyond my means at the moment. Hopefully we’ll get to have a full-on class reunion at Worldcon in Melbourne in 2010! I am publicly committing to a return-trip then….

best-american-short-stories-2008Finished up Best American Short Stories 2008, edited by Salman Rushdie. A good read, as always with this series. About a third of the stories had some sort of speculative element, which seems about in line with the recent trend. These are the ones that seem to be lasting in my memory:

“The Year of Silence,” Kevin Brokmeier.  You know those moments at a party, when everything so happens to go quiet all at once? One of those moments happens to an entire city, and then the city decides that silence is where it’s at.  An interesting surrealist (can you tell?) story that breaks a lot of rules in unusual ways, e.g., by narrating from the POV of a city.

“Virgins,” Danielle Evans.  Two teenage girls dealing withing their sexuality.  A nicely complex story, and one of the few in the book about the lives of people of color.

 “The King of Sentences,” Jonathan Lethem.  Two unknown writers go in search of a pulp fiction writer so brilliant they’ve dubbed him the king of sentences.  An entertaining read about hero worship and the odd layers of fame.

“Child’s Play,” Alice Munro. Typical Alice Munro brilliance, this story will haunt you afterward.  

“Vampires in the Lemon Grove,” Karen Russell.  Karen Russell can even make vampires new, interesting, and literary.  What if vampires didn’t need blood at all to survive?  What if, say, lemon juice did just as well?  What does it mean when you’ve learned you’re a monster, but you don’t have to be? 

“Puppy,” George Saunders. Another haunting tale, with a brilliant voice.  Saunders really takes you into his characters heads – and often it’s quite a creepy place to be… 

Any time you have a series like this, it’s nearly impossible for it to live up to its name, but this series comes pretty close, especially in recent years with editors like Rushdie, King, and Chabon, who have been bringing in a wider range of voices.

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