These forty stories represent their eras but also stand the test of time. Here is Ernest Hemingway’s first published story and a classic by William Faulkner, who admitted in his biographical note that he began to write “as an aid to love-making.” Nancy Hale’s story describes far-reaching echoes of the Holocaust; Tillie Olsen’s story expresses the desperation of a single mother; James Baldwin depicts the bonds of brotherhood and music. Here is Raymond Carver’s “minimalism,” a term he disliked, and Grace Paley’s “secular Yiddishkeit.” Here are the varied styles of Donald Barthelme, Charles Baxter, and Jamaica Kincaid. From Junot Díaz to Mary Gaitskill, from ZZ Packer to Sherman Alexie, these writers and stories explore the different things it means to be American.
Moore writes that the process of assembling these stories allowed her to look “thrillingly not just at literary history but at actual history — the cries and chatterings, silences and descriptions of a nation in flux.” is an invaluable testament, a retrospective of our country’s ever-changing but continually compelling literary artistry.
LORRIE MOORE, after many years as a professor of creative writing at the University of Wisconsin — Madison, is now the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English at Vanderbilt University. Moore has received honors for her work, among them the International Fiction Prize and a Lannan Foundation fellowship, as well as the PEN/Malamud Award and the Rea Award for her achievement in the short story. Her most recent novel, was short-listed for the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction and for the PEN/Faulkner Award, and her most recent story collection, , was short-listed for the Story Prize and the Frank O’Connor Award.
HEIDI PITLOR is a former senior editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and has been the series editor of since 2007. She is the author of the novels
As a graduate student in upstate New York, Nathaniel Mason is drawn into a tangle of relationships with people who seem to hover just beyond his grasp. There's Theresa, alluring but elusive, and Jamie, who is fickle if not wholly unavailable. But Jerome Coolberg is the most mysterious and compelling. Not only cryptic about himself, he seems also to have appropriated parts of Nathaniel's past that Nathaniel cannot remember having told him about. In this extraordinary novel of mischief and menace, we see a young man's very self vanishing before his eyes.
In vignettes both comic and sexy, the owner of a coffee shop recalls the day his first wife seemed to achieve a moment of simple perfection, while she remembers the women's softball game during which she was stricken by the beauty of the shortstop. A young couple spends hours at the coffee shop fueling the idea of their fierce love. A professor of philosophy, stopping by for a cup of coffee, makes a valiant attempt to explain what he knows to be the inexplicable workings of the human heart Their voices resonate with each other-disparate people joined by the meanderings of love-and come together in a tapestry that depicts the most irresistible arena of life.
Ever since the publication of in 1984, Charles Baxter has slowly gained a reputation as one of America’s finest short-story writers. Each subsequent collection—and—was further confirmation of his mastery: his gift for capturing the immediate moment, for revealing the unexpected in the ordinary, for showing how the smallest shock can pierce the heart of an intimacy. brings together the best of Baxter’s previous collections with seven new stories, giving us the most complete portrait of his achievement.
Baxter once described himself as “a Midwestern writer in a postmodern age”: at home in a terrain best known for its blandness, one that does not give up its secrets easily, whose residents don’t always talk about what’s on their mind, and where something out of the quotidian — some stress, the appearance of a stranger, or a knock on the window — may be all that’s needed to force what lies underneath to the surface and to disclose a surprising impulse, frustration, or desire. Whether friends or strangers, the characters in Baxter’s stories share a desire — sometimes muted and sometimes fierce — to break through the fragile glass of convention. In the title story, a substitute teacher walks into a new classroom, draws an outsized tree on the blackboard on a whim, and rewards her students by reading their fortunes using a Tarot deck. In each of the stories we see the delicate tension between what we want to believe and what we need to believe.
By turns compassionate, gently humorous, and haunting, proves William Maxwell’s assertion that “nobody can touch Charles Baxter in the field that he has carved out for himself.”
Five Oaks, Michigan is not exactly where Saul and Patsy meant to end up. Both from the East Coast, they met in college, fell in love, and settled down to married life in the Midwest. Saul is Jewish and a compulsively inventive worrier; Patsy is gentile and cheerfully pragmatic. On Saul s initiative (and to his continual dismay) they have moved to this small town a place so devoid of irony as to be virtually a museum of earlier American feelings where he has taken a job teaching high school.
Soon this brainy and guiltily happy couple will find children have become a part of their lives, first their own baby daughter and then an unloved, unlovable boy named Gordy Himmelman. It is Gordy who will throw Saul and Patsy s lives into disarray with an inscrutable act of violence. As timely as a news flash yet informed by an immemorial understanding of human character, Saul and Patsy is a genuine miracle."
From a contemporary master of the short story: a dazzling new collection-his first in fifteen years-that explores the unpredictable and mysterious in seemingly ordinary experience.
These interrelated stories are arranged in two sections, one devoted to virtues ("Bravery," "Loyalty," "Chastity," "Charity," and "Forbearance") and the other to vices ("Lust," "Sloth," "Avarice," "Gluttony," and "Vanity"). They are cast with characters who appear and reappear throughout the collection, their actions equally divided between the praiseworthy and the loathsome. They take place in settings as various as Tuscany, San Francisco, Ethiopia, and New York, but their central stage is the North Loop of Minneapolis, alongside the Mississippi River, which flows through most of the tales. Each story has at its center a request or a demand, but each one plays out differently: in a hit-and-run, an assault or murder, a rescue, a startling love affair, or, of all things, a gesture of kindness and charity. Altogether incomparably crafted, consistently surprising, remarkably beautiful stories.
“As our vision becomes more global, our storytelling is stretching in many ways. Stories increasingly change point of view, switch location, and sometimes pack as much material as a short novel might,” writes guest editor Elizabeth Strout. “It’s the variety of voices that most indicates the increasing confluence of cultures involved in making us who we are.” presents an impressive diversity of writers who dexterously lead us into their corners of the world.
In “Miss Lora,” Junot Díaz masterfully puts us in the mind of a teenage boy who throws aside his better sense and pursues an intimate affair with a high school teacher. Sheila Kohler tackles innocence and abuse as a child wanders away from her mother, in thrall to a stranger she believes is the “Magic Man.” Kirstin Valdez Quade’s “Nemecia” depicts the after-effects of a secret, violent family trauma. Joan Wickersham’s “The Tunnel” is a tragic love story about a mother’s declining health and her daughter’s helplessness as she struggles to balance her responsibility to her mother and her own desires. New author Callan Wink’s “Breatharians” unsettles the reader as a farm boy shoulders a grim chore in the wake of his parents’ estrangement.
“Elizabeth Strout was a wonderful reader, an author who knows well that the sound of one’s writing is just as important as and indivisible from the content,” writes series editor Heidi Pitlor. “Here are twenty compellingly told, powerfully felt stories about urgent matters with profound consequences.”