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100 Years of The Best American Short Stories (The Best American Series ®) Hardcover – October 6, 2015

4.4 out of 5 stars 498 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

The Best American Short Stories is the longest running and best-selling series of short fiction in the country. For the centennial celebration of this beloved annual series, master of the form Lorrie Moore selects forty stories from the more than two thousand that were published in previous editions. Series editor Heidi Pitlor recounts behind-the-scenes anecdotes and examines, decade by decade, the trends captured over a hundred years. Together, the stories and commentary offer an extraordinary guided tour through a century of literature with what Moore calls all its wildnesses of character and voice.

These forty stories represent their eras but also stand the test of time. Here is Ernest Hemingway s first published story and a classic by William Faulkner, who admitted in his biographical note that he began to write as an aid to love-making. Nancy Hale s story describes far-reaching echoes of the Holocaust; Tillie Olsen s story expresses the desperation of a single mother; James Baldwin depicts the bonds of brotherhood and music. Here is Raymond Carver s minimalism, a term he disliked, and Grace Paley s secular Yiddishkeit. Here are the varied styles of Donald Barthelme, Charles Baxter, and Jamaica Kincaid. From Junot Diaz to Mary Gaitskill, from ZZ Packer to Sherman Alexie, these writers and stories explore the different things it means to be American.

Moore writes that the process of assembling these stories allowed her to look thrillingly not just at literary history but at actual history the cries and chatterings, silences and descriptions of a nation in flux. 100 Years of The Best American Short Stories is an invaluable testament, a retrospective of our country s ever-changing but continually compelling literary artistry.

From the Back Cover


Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Mariner Books; First Edition (October 6, 2015)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 752 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0547485859
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0547485850
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 2.2 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6 x 2.22 x 9 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.4 out of 5 stars 498 ratings

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Lorrie Moore is the author of the story collections Like Life, Self-Help, and Birds of America, and the novels Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? and Anagrams. She is a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5
498 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on August 28, 2020
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4.0 out of 5 stars If you're buying this for class, SKIP IT
By B. Marble on December 22, 2018
[First, I didn't steal this book from a library or anything, it was purchased from the Seattle Goodwill via Amazon and is clearly marked as having been culled from the Everett Public Library shelves.]

I bought this because it was required for an English class I was taking and it cost much less here than what the school bookstore wanted to charge me for it (rant for another day!) but I wish I'd done better research before purchasing. We only read 6 stories for the class and all of them were available online to read for free, mostly on the websites of the magazines that originally published them or through other non-piratey sources like Project Gutenberg. It wasn't a lot of money but I'm a broke college student/freelancer, and it would've been nice to save a little more cash this term, especially around the holidays.

The stories are fine, I guess. It's a collection of literary fiction, which isn't the sort of thing I read for fun, so I don't feel that qualified to judge the stories as any better or worse than as advertised (THE BEST). I'll probably drop this off at my local Goodwill for someone else to read since it's decidedly not my jam, but if you're thinking about buying this book because you like literary fiction, there's no reason not to get a copy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Best of the Best American Short Stories
By Dr.C.J.Singh.Wallia on April 16, 2018
Book-review posted on

100 Years of The Best American Short Stories...
Edited by Lorrie Moore and Heidi Pitlor
Reviewed by C. J. Singh (Berkeley, California)

“The Best American Short Stories of the Year” series began its publication in 1915; In 2015, we have this book, a selection of the best 40 from the 100 years’ publication of the series.

The 12-page introduction by Lorrie Moore reads, in parts, like an engaging first person short- story of the narrator as presenting her own short-story anthology to readers in many bookstores in America. I’ve long enjoyed reading Moore’s witty stories. On page 652, co-editor Heidi Pitlor writes: “A last note: Lorrie Moore refused to include any of her own stories in this book, despite my best efforts to convince her otherwise. I had to settle for her involvement on only one level. She has my deep gratitude for introducing and coediting this book.”

The co-editor Heidi Pitlor presents excellent biographical introductions to the series editors over the century from 1915 to 2015. In her introduction to the first section, 1915-20, we learn how a young poet and playwright, Edward O’ Brien originated the series publication. A sample of Pitlor’s notes: “In 1930, the same year that his wife died, the series editor Edward O’Brien met Ruth Gorgel , a poor sixteen-year old German girl. To the surprise and dismay of his family and friends, he married her soon after. They had two daughters, and O’Brien began to travel yet more in order to drum up work and money to support his growing family.”

Each reader’s list of the top ten of the 40 published in this book will most likely be ideosyncratic. Below are my brief reviews of my top three: Alice Munro, Joyce Carol Oates; Jhumpa Lahiri, and a list of seven more: George Saunders, Tobias Wolff, Grace Paley, Donald Barthelme, Raymond Carver, Flannery O’Connor, and Ernest Hemingwat. Your list? To quote a pioneering stand-up comedian, Mort Sahl, who used to pause during his act in San Francisco to ask, “Have I offended everybody?”

ALICE MUNRO: Heidi Pitlor notes in her introduction (page 452): “Munro is known for her clarity of language and acute psychological realism. Many refer to her as ‘a Canadian Chekov.’ In 2013, Munro cited as ‘a master of the contemporary short story,’ was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She is the first Canadian and the thirteenth woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.”

Published in 1991, Munro’s short-story “Friend of My Youth” is set in rural Ontario, Canada, near the small town where she was raised.
The un-named first-person narrator opens the story, “I used to dream about my mother, and though the details in the dream varied, the surprise in it was always the same. The dream stopped, I suppose because it was too transparent in its hopefulness, too easy in its forgiveness. In the dream I would be the age I really was, living the life I was really living, and I would discover that my mother was still alive. (The fact is, she died when I was in my early twenties and she in her early fifties.) ”

When the narrator’s mother (also un-named) was a young woman she took a job “to teach at a one-room school called the Grieves’ School in Ottawa valley. The school was on a corner of the farm that belonged to the Grieves family.” The bulk of the story is about the obscure religion of this family, “Cameronians,” their two daughters, Flora and Ellie, and the man Ellie was married to, Robert Deal, the nurse Audrey Atkinson who was hired later to take care of Ellie when she was afflicted with terminal cancer.

“My mother could not say who the Cameronians were or why they were called that. Some freak religion from Scotland, she said, from the perch of her obedient and lighthearted Anglicalism.” At the end of the story the narrator does research to discover who the Cameronians were.

Robert Deal came from Scotland and found work at the Grieves’ farm. Initially he and Flora were a couple, but he got the younger sister Ellie pregnant. Flora, the older sister, represents traditional values; Ellie, the younger, modern values. Description of driving to town: “Robert rode in front, to drive the horse – Flora could drive a horse perfectly well, but it must always be the man who drove. Flora would be standing behind, holding on to the sacks. She rode to town and back standing up, keeping an easy balance, wearing her black hat. Almost ridiculous but not quite. A Gypsy queen, my mother thought she looked like, with her black hair and her skin that always looked tanned, and the lithe bold serenity. Of course she lacked the gold bangles and the bright clothes. My mother envied her her slenderness, and her cheekbones.”

Flora soon became a close friend of the narrator’s mother who boarded with the Grieves. When Ellie’s health detoriarated, a nurse was engaged. The nurse “Audrey Atkinson said that she had never been called out to tend a case in so primitive a house. It was beyond her, she said, how people could live in such a way.”

Flora took loving care of her sister Ellie. “Everybody said that Flora had behaved like a saint.” After Ellie dies, Robert Deal marries the arrogant Audrey, relegating Flora to live in the shabbiest part of the house. Flora leaves and finds a job in a city. The narrator speculates about writing a novel of these events with different endings, Munro’s story like many of other short-stories has the complexity of a full-length novel.

At the end of the story, the narrator says: “The Cameronians, I have discovered, are or were an uncompromising remnant of the Coventers….Their name comes from Richard Cameron, an outlawed or “field” preacher, soon cut down. The Cameronians went into battle singing the Seventy-fourth and the Seventy-eighth Psalms. They hacked the haughty archbishop of St. Adrews to death on the highway and rode their horses over his body. One of their ministers, in a firm rejoicing at his own hanging, excommunicated all the other preachers in the world.”

JOYCE CAROL OATES: Heidi Pitlor notes in her introduction (page 287) “Among her numerous awards are the National Book Award, the Rea Award, the PEN/Malamud Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and five life-time achievement awards.” “Of her prolific nature, she once said, ‘A writer who has published as many books as I have has developed, of necessity, a hide like a rhino’s, while inside there dwells a frail, hopeful butterfly of a spirit.’ ” (That’s how I perceived Oates’ personality on three recent book-signings at Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore, Berkeley, California.)

Published in 1969, Oates’ short-story “By the River” opens: “Helen thought: ‘Am in love again, some kind of new love? Is that why I’m here?” She was sitting in the waiting room of the Yellow Bus Lines station.”

This Helen has just returned from the city after a four-month adulterous affair with an older man, waiting for her father to drive her back home in rural Oriskany. In her naivetè, she thinks her father will forgive her adultery. Not so. After picking her up at the station, the father drives to the dark shores of the meandering river and stabs her to death.

The great strength of the story are the psychological details Oates presents as she did in her much anthologized short story “Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?”

Oates, like Munro, is a grand-master of psychological realism and in my opinion merits the Nobel Prize in Literature.

JHUMPA LAHIRI: Heidi Pitlor notes in her introduction (page 544): Lahiri’s first short story collection, Published in 2000 in The New Yorker, Lahiri’s "The Third and Final Continent" is a first-person short-story of an Indian immigrant who looks back at his first few weeks in America, thirty years ago. In the late 1960s, at age thirty-six, he arrives to work as a librarian at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, after having studied for four years in London (his second continent). Just before coming to America, he takes a trip to Calcutta to "attend" his arranged marriage, staying there only a week, barely getting acquainted with his bride. She has to await her visa for six weeks before she can join him in America.

On arrival in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the narrator checks into the local YMCA and later rents a room in the home of a 103-year-old widow, Mrs. Croft, who lives by herself. She is a stay-at-home eccentric mother of a 68-year-old daughter, who thinks it improper that her visiting daughter wears a dress high above her ankle. "For your information, Mother, it's 1969. What would you do if you actually left the house one day and saw a girl in a miniskirt?" Mrs. Croft sniffs: "I'd have her arrested."

When the narrator's wife, Mala, arrives from Calcutta, Mrs. Croft scrutinizes her "from top to toe with what seemed to be placid disdain. I wondered if Mrs. Croft had ever seen a woman in a sari, with a dot painted on her forehead and bracelets stacked on her wrists. I wondered what she would object to. I wondered if she could see the red dye still vivid on Mala's feet, all but obscured by the bottom edge of her sari. At last Mrs. Croft declared, with equal measure of disbelief and delight I know well: 'She is a perfect lady!' "

It is this scrutiny that first evokes the narrator's empathy with his bride for it reminds him of his own experiences as a bewildered stranger in London. Looking back, "I like to think of that moment in Mrs. Croft's parlor as the moment when the distance between Mala and me began to lessen."

"100 Years of the Best American Short Stories" is a must-read book for all lovers of literary fiction.
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Clare M
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 1, 2016
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2.0 out of 5 stars 100 years of the Best American Short Stories
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marsha l. reid
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful journey through a century of American short story writing
Reviewed in Canada on February 5, 2016
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5.0 out of 5 stars Short
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5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
Reviewed in Canada on November 11, 2020
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