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W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n l it e r a t u r e S p r in g 2 0 0 6 A Different Plain: Contemporary Nebraska Fiction Writers. Edited by Ladette Randolph. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004. 398 pages, $19.95. Reviewed by Becky Faber University of Nebraska, Lincoln Any reader who approaches this collection with the idea of reading stories about life and geography in the contemporary Plains will be surprised—and delighted—by the selections that Ladette Randolph has so well incorporated into this interesting text. This is an eclectic collection, and what a powerful one it is, containing works by some of today’s best fiction writers: Marly Swick, Paul Eggers, Dan Chaon, Karen Shoemaker, Tom McNeal, Trudy Lewis, John McNally, Jonis Agee, Kent Haruf, Lee Martin, Judy Slater, Tim Schaffert, Ron Hansen, Gerald Shapiro, Ron Block, Brent Spencer, Mary Helen Stefaniak, Richard Duggin, Jody Shields, and Richard Dooling (to entice you with just a partial list of contributors). Any collection by this group of writers would be impressive enough, but Randolph has drawn this group together because of their common ties to Nebraska. Her criteria for including authors were that they had each published one book of fiction and that they had spent a portion of their childhood or publishing life in Nebraska or cunently lived in the state. Settings range from Crete, Nebraska (in Swick’s story entitled “Crete”), to Malaysia (in Eggers’s “Anything You Want, Please”). The stories encompass such topics as childhood friendship, the loneliness of the single life, Communism, and even a futuristic experience. The lengths, voices, techniques, and themes are completely varied. It’s a reader’s treat to move from story to story, somewhat like opening a box of chocolates and enjoying the sweetness of each different piece. Every story won’t be for every reader, but all readers will see the power of this collection, which Randolph has dedicated to “the young writers of Nebraska” and which Mary Pipher, in the introduction, says “demonstrates that the literary legacy continues” (xiii). Not only does this text appeal to readers of fiction, but it will be a tre­ mendous tool for those of us who teach contemporary Nebraska writers. This anthology is unique in terms of drawing together the works of writers who are at the forefront of contemporary writing in this state. It will do nothing to diminish the importance of traditional Nebraska fiction authors, such as Willa Cather, Mari Sandoz, Bess Streeter Aldrich, and Wright Monis, but it expands the genre to show that writing from Nebraska-associated writers is as alive today as at any time in the past. Randolph has done a great service to readers and teachers both, but even more so to the promotion and preservation of literature in Nebraska. Such a collection is long overdue. ...


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