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new cities and destroyed the Old West. It created a new kind of wealth. Its construction remains one of the most important events in our history. (BS) The Best American Short Stories 2000 E. L. Doctorow, Editor. Houghton Mifflin, 2000, 381 pp., $13 In his introduction to this year's Best American Short Stories, guest editor E. L. Doctorow suggests that the contemporary short story is in a state of transformation, moving away from the twentieth-century epiphanic model while borrowing ideas from earlier, episodic fictions. The result? "Oddly," Doctorow attests, "the reader discerns a nice sense of freedom in what has to be thought of as a conservative tendency, one that glances back to the nineteenth century. It's as if some literary shackle has been broken —one made of gold, admittedly, but a shackle nevertheless." Whether a shackle has been broken in these twenty-one stories is arguable; what feels more certain is that this year's selection is as strong as, if not superior to, last year's anthology, edited by Amy Tan. That anthology featured a standout story by Nathan Englander, "The Tumblers." I was happy to discover that Englander has been selected again, this time for "The Gilgul of Park Avenue," a comic tale about a financial analyst who experiences a midlife religious awakening in the back of a New York City cab. The story succeeds largely because Englander finds quiet humor and pathos where a lesser writer might have found absurdity alone. Ha Jin and Jhumpa Lahiri also return with new offerings. Jin's "The Bridegroom " is one of his best, a sharp and revealing story about a father's reluctance to accept his daughter's marriage to a gay man; and Lahiri's "The Third and Final Continent" shows why the author received a Pulitzer Prize for her last collection of stories, The Interpreter ofMaladies. A reader might do a double-take to see Raymond Carver's name on the list of contributing authors, but Carver 's "Call if You Need Me" is a reminder of just how powerful this writer's vision was—is. Carver's story, discovered last year and published by Granta, pivots on an image of horses lost in a nighttime fog, an image Carver uses as a metaphor for the unhappy couple who witness the event. The story's conclusion is both unexpected and apt. Other familiar writers include Annie Proulx, Tim Gautreaux, Allan Gurganus, Amy Bloom, Ron Carlson and Junot Diaz (strange to think of Diaz as "familiar" already!). Although all their stories are excellent, none felt as memorable to me as Michael Byers' "The Beautiful Days," a lyrical yet candid story about a loss of innocence, hinging on a sexual favor. Other remarkable selections are Percival Everett's "The Fix," about a magical healer whose talent for fixing broken hearts and household appliances brings his eventual ruin, and Kathleen Hill's "The Anointed," in which the twelve-year-old protagonist has a literary coming-of-age in the dull, dismal room that passes for a school library: "The pages I had read threw open the strange possibility that looking at things, feeling them, were also things that happened The Missouri Review · 173 to you, just as much as meeting someone or going on a trip. What you thought and felt when you were alone or silently in the presence of someone else also made a story." But the story that will linger the longest for me is ZZ Packer's "Brownies," about a troop ofBrownies from the suburbs of Atlanta who conspire to beat up a troop of white girls at summer camp. The story's sad, tender and regrettable crisis is matched only by the power of its quiet dénouement, where Packer's narrator comes to realize "there was something mean in the world that I could not stop." Moments like these reveal what short fiction has always done best: illuminate and instruct. These stories do just that. (AV) House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III Vintage Contemporaries, 2000, 365 pp., $14 Now and then a novel comes along that makes us recall what really good fiction is all about. A really...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 173-174
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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