“In twenty-nine separate but ingenious ways, these stories seek permanent residence within a reader. They strive to become an emotional or intellectual cargo that might accompany us wherever, or however, we go. . . . If we are made by what we read, if language truly builds people into what they are, how they think, the depth with which they feel, then these stories are, to me, premium material for that construction project. You could build a civilization with them.” —Ben Marcus, from the IntroductionAward-winning author of Notable American Women Ben Marcus brings us this engaging and comprehensive collection of short stories that explore the stylistic variety of the medium in America today.Sea Oak by George SaundersEverything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells TowerDo Not Disturb by A.M. HomesThe Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee BenderThe Caretaker by Anthony DoerrThe Old Dictionary by Lydia DavisThe Father’s Blessing by Mary CaponegroThe Life and Work of Alphonse Kauders by Aleksandar HemonPeople Shouldn’t Have to be the Ones to Tell You by Gary LutzHistories of the Undead by Kate BravermanWhen Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine by Jhumpa LahiriDown the Road by Stephen DixonX Number of Possibilities by Joanna ScottTiny, Smiling Daddy by Mary GaitskillBrief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster WallaceThe Sound Gun by Matthew DerbyShort Talks by Anne CarsonField Events by Rick BassScarliotti and the Sinkhole by Padgett PowellFrom the Trade Paperback edition.
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Like a lot of collections of varying emotional platitudes and experience, this is no different, and is always hit or miss, and rarely consistently great. With the exception of an abysmal middle section that spans a couple hundred pages or so, the real meat of this book occurs somewhere at the beginning and the end.What follows are little synopses of my top 5 stories. So, if by chance, you happen to have this book in your hands or are able to procure it for cheap, I recommend directing your attention to these five, you know, if chronological reading doesn't work out for you. 1) "The Caretaker," Anthony Doerr (This guy's name keeps on popping up in collections everywhere, his stories usually ahead of the pack; that must mean something. Anyway, a Liberian escapes the civil war in the late 1980s and somehow finds himself ocean-wise, in Oregon.)2) "Field Events," Rick Bass (A.C., a super massive gargantuan of a person meets a family of "misfits," who attempt to harness his strength in the great American pastime of discus throwing. Touching and among the most honest and realistic stories in the collection.3) "Sea Oak," George Saunders (A tight-nit family not necessarily tight-nit by choice, struggles through financial ineptitude, as one son dances the night away, and his grandma continues to push him on for the sake of the family, telling him, "Go show your cock!" Dialogue is error-filled, and absolutely perfect.)4) "Do Not Disturb," A.M. Humes (Woman who is herself a doctor, gets diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Her emotionally wayward husband attempts to stick by her side through it all.)5) "Scarliotti and the Sinkhole," Padgett Powell (Just read it. All attempts at classifying this story or even explaining it will sound like mush. Powell's sense of character and dialogue is uncanny and amazingly frazzled at times, bringing life to every instant.)more
Not all of the stories were nearly worth four stars, but as a whole the anthology deserves its stars. In fact, only couple of the stories got me to look for more from the authors: Short Talks by Anne Carson and The Old Dictionary by Lydia Davis. But what impressed me in this anthology was the various methods through which all of the stories deal with the anxiety of post modern human - no matter if the method works or not, it's worth exploring the possibilities of language and literature.more
Very disappointing collection. No surprises - the short story authors that I already knew were great had great stories (William Gay, using probably the most anthologized story in recent history, "The Paperhanger", A.M. Holmes, George Saunders) while more than 3/4 of the book's stories are limp and uninteresting. I did learn of one author that is new to me, though - Lydia Davis. Her story, "The Old Dictionary", all of 2.5 pages long, is *amazing*.more
Many tales told many ways - what is the author plotting? It's a great theme but the selections ranged from the somber to the seamy. This collection is as likely to depress as to impress. Sea Oak was novel. The Caretaker was engaging. When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine was touching. Most of the rest were bad. The Father's Blessing was depraved.more
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