Reviews for Best American Short Stories 2013


Booklist Reviews 2013 October #1
In her introduction, editor Pitlor notes that, in the past, a period of distillation needed to pass before one could write about trauma. In today's digital age, however, with the speed that our society shares news such as the Sandy Hook shooting last December, "while we are grieving, we are now writing." Although none of the stories in this collection respond directly to current events, each story inhabits its own unique tragedy. These tragedies are those of everyday life, sometimes subtle and often humorous, and range from the acute loneliness of nineteenth-century New England farm life, to the doomed love between a teenage boy and a middle-aged woman, to divorce, to a strange neighbor arriving at a front door--naked--in the night. The setting of modern-day, nondescript America appears in these 20 stories to the point of feeling repetitive, but as a whole this collection is wildly divergent and entertaining, and each story is cultivated with a keen eye for voice and character. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 September #1
Plenty of great stories, but lighter on discovery and revelation than some previous annuals. For the reader whose consumption of short stories doesn't extend much beyond this yearly collection, the latest delivers the goods. With novelist Strout (The Burgess Boys, 2013, etc.) serving as guest editor and making the final selection, the collection includes a number of writers widely regarded as masters of the form: Alice Munro, Lorrie Moore, George Saunders and Junot Díaz among them. Almost half of these stories originally appeared in either the New Yorker or Granta. Strout explains that voice was the dominant criterion in her selection: "Arguably, authorial voice is more important in a short story than in a longer piece of fiction. The ride is quicker, the response heightened, and less space is available in which to absorb patches of soggy writing or gratuitous detail." One of the quickest rides that generates the strongest response is "The Chair" by David Means, a first-person narration (as many of these stories are) by a father who can't be trusted to know himself, let alone do best by his son, as he finds himself "having to reestablish my command, or better yet, my guidance--a towering figure in his little mind...." Quite a few of these stories concern the essence of storytelling: "Stories are about things that don't happen. They could happen, but they don't. But they could" (Steven Millhauser, "A Voice in the Night"); "I'm Paul Harvey, and now you know the rest of the story" (Callan Wink, "Breatharians"). As always, the Contributors' Notes on the stories are fascinating, and writers will be encouraged to learn that one of the best stories here--"Horned Men" by Karl Taro Greenfeld--was rejected by some 50 publications before making it to print. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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