Annie Proulx has assembled a collection of current American short stories from the few slicks that publish them, and the many little magazines that offer the true home of realistic short fiction nowadays. Like John Edgar Wideman (who edited last year's BASS) she continues with cultural pluralism: stories set in China (Jin), Southeast Asia (Eugenides), the Carribean (Cliff and Stone), and Europe (Davis and Michaels) appear here. A mixing of social levels and cultural influences is "in" these days in the short story. I think it has invigorated the form. Now for the bad news: the current trend in the realistic short story is finally clear to me. I am calling it the "dysfunctional story"; in it, horrible people do terrible things to each other (or animals) for an extended period of time, and then the story ends. Woe to the reader who "identifies" with such characters. I have developed a thicker skin while reading such a story, because it's dangerous to get too close to its emotions. Sometimes irony effectively modulates the work, as it does in Michelle Cliff's "Transactions" (TriQuarterly), a shrewd parable of cultural invasion set on an island with a slave history; or Leonard Michaels's "A Girl with a Monkey" (Partisan Review), where an aging American tries to buy the affections of a German prostitute as he tries to escape a collapsed life back home. Fine traditional narratives that let us "like" the characters include Junot Diaz's "Fiesta, 1980" (Story), a beautiful rendering of a misunderstood youth in a New York barrio; and Michael Byers's "Shipmates Down Under" (American Short Fiction), my favorite in this book, which handles the complex problems of a "typical" American family with Updikean aplomb. You'll notice I didn't mention any slick magazine stories as notable this year. Based on this collection, the "littles" had better material. My students also liked work by Carolyn Cooke, Karen E. Bender, Tim Gautreaux, and Jeffrey Eugenides (although some hated the last one). Overall, the impression I get from these stories is a far reduced faith or interest in humankind. Authors seem to trust style and plot more than people, at times seeming to take enjoyment in showing characters in their worst possible light. This Tarantino-ization of the current short story does not bode well for the form, IMHO (in my humble opinion).