Monday, January 28, 2008
The Best American Short Stories 2007.Houghton Mifflin Company.
398 pages.Edited by Stephen King.
After 2006's underwhelming offering I approached this edition with some trepidation.I was moderately surprised.There was no gloomy stench of death similar to that which hung over its predecessor.
Saying that however,death does feature in several of the stories such as "The Wake","Findings and Impressions" and "Sans Farine".But its not the fundamental encompassing preoccupation of these works."Death" with a small 'd'.
Stephen King notes in his introduction as editor that if the stories have anything in common .."its that sense of emotional involvement".
Im not sure how emotionally involving the majority of the stories are given that two weeks have passed and Im struggling to recall the details of many.A few stuck in my mind such as the already noted "The Wake" and "L DeBard and Aliette:A Love Story.
As this years editor was Stephen King I expected some off beat unusual choices but nothing really stood out in terms of horror,thrills,awkwardness or originality.
I also expected his choices would be long short stories or novellas,similar in length to his own works such as "The Shawshank Redemption" or "Stand By Me".However,looking back over the last five years of this series there doesnt seem to be any great discrepancy.In fact by my rough calculations this years offerings are of average length.Maybe Im getting more impatient or losing my powers of concentration.
Whatever.It still begs the question as to how long is a short story?Is there a word or page limit?Must it be able to be devoured in one sitting or put down and taken up again like a novel?
If there is a theme running through these stories I think its more basic and complex than emotional involvement between writer and reader.Relationships.Not only between couples,family members and friends but also co-workers and members of the same gender.
Relationships.Developed.Successful.Struggling and still-born.
For the most part this years choices are an improvement on last years which isnt really a ringing endorsement but are worth the investment in money and time to read.