Gone are the days when a writer could earn a living publishing short stories in magazines because gone, too, are the days when most people read them. That's a shame, as this anthology demonstrates, because short fiction offers pleasures to the reader, and challenges to the writer, which are unavailable in longer forms. Like shots of liqueur, they can pack a mighty punch. "Short" doesn't mean a story can't be complex or moving, or can't address expansive themes. Indeed, that the better short stories achieve precisely those things is one measure of their greatness. Daniel Halpern's selections here prove it. His anthology not only gives hours of reading pleasure, but also provides an indispensable resource for aspiring writers: these stories display such an amazing range of themes, styles and narrative structures, they make it a veritable showcase of approaches to storytelling. For the student of literature, they offer condensed examples of how writers do their work. Of course, not everything can appeal in a volume of this size, but for me there were some highpoints: "Dharma", a moving ghost story by Vikram Chandra; the cleverly historical "The Green Man" by Jeanette Winterson; the almost casually powerful "Talking Dog" by Francine Prose; "Midnight and I'm Not Famous Yet", a Vietnam memoir by Barry Hannah; "Everything in This Country Must", a child's perspective on Northern Ireland, by Colum McCann; "The Girl Who Left Her Sock on the Floor" by Deborah Eisenberg and "The Lifeguard" by Mary Morris, both of which deal with death and adolescence; the immensely moving "Evermore" by Julian Barnes; the domestic suspense of "A Family Dinner" by Kazuo Ishiguro; and the heartbreaking lament of "Intimacy" by Hanif Kureishi - which, I assume, is the seed which grew into his novel of the same name. Ironically, Kureishi's story shows precisely what can be achieved in the short form: for my money, it's better than his novel.
i checked this out of the libary and both my husband and i have thoroughly ravaged its pages. i carried it about a month; he carried it for another. we incurred almost more overdue fines than the book (hardcover) cost. we liked it so much we are purchasing it to bring back home to new york. the selection is insightful and appreciated, and if any thread unites the stories it is that they succeed as the best writing ought -- in acting as instant portals/transporters to another time, place, world, of life or ideas, psychology or thought. i read a lot of (mostly american) short stories and literary magazines, but this anthology truly had at least 3 of the best stories i've ever read. also, i appreciated that these stories were not just personal sketches of ethic/outsider subjectivity or sex born of the blandness of suburbia or alienation of the city, etc.: the author steps aside, the story tells itself. the stories are artful, masterly, probably the epitome of each writer's writing career (they read like those gems, with a few exceptions). you feel this in the reading. word by word, the stories unfold, unravel, draw you magnetically down the line of prose and make you lean back at the end of a story and marvel that you're still sitting where you were how many minutes ago? and it was only 3 pages? let me read that again. truly successful writing; truly well-selected anthology. buy it.
I have been using this book for over a year now for the story writing course I tutor online. The very wide range and style of stories makes it ideal for this purpose and helps to stimulate discussion. I have also had very positive feedback from students: None regretted purchasing the book. The most popular story without a doubt proved to be Nicola Barker's "G-String". :) There are some very strong showings here from Al-Shaykh, Margaret Atwood, T.C. Boyle, Olen Butler, Peter Carey, Lydia Davis, N. Englander, Richard Ford, Pawel Huelle, Edward P. Jones, C. McCann, Bobbie Ann Mason, Mary Morris, H. Murakami, Francine Prose, Salman Rushdie, Graham Swift, Tatyana Tolstaya, L. Valenzuela, Tobias Wolff ... and others. A few stories made me scratch my head as to why they had been selected; but overall this is a challenging, diverse, high-voltage anthology. Even if you read short stories compulsively, you're bound to discover some new writers or rediscover a writer you thought you knew.
Although I have yet to read all of the stories in this book, I'm sure that someday I will. I bought this book for a college literature course and plan on saving it for rainy days. The stories in this book come from writers at home and abroad, complete with a wide range of topics, some that are seen in everyday life and others that include the perils of war and May/December relationships (Aren't You Happy for Me- my personal fave). I gave this book four stars because some of the stories I found dry in content. But I think that there are enough topics to cover a wide range of enjoyment for all readers. Enjoy!