Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Best American Short Stories 2011

A look at what’s obsessing America

Enough already with the dead babies. They featured in every other story.  Relying on the dead child as a mechanism to move the plot forward, or to wrap things up is weak.  Surely there are other ways to drum up emotion in the reader.

The introduction by Geraldine Brooks was insightful. I learned that most stories written are adultery stories, therefore, for her, those stories started running together. The subject is cliche. And I agree that the stories I liked best, that were the most insightful about America, that drew the most blood, were the stories that had a fantastical element. Caitlin Horrocks, “The Sleep”, in which an entire Midwest town, a family at a time, decides to hibernate. What does that say about our society? “Phantoms” by Stephen Millhauser, is a quasi scientific look at fleeting ghosts who haunt a small town, yet seemed highly annoyed by its flesh and blood inhabitants. Finally, my favorite story was George Saunders’s “Escape from Spiderhead,” in which convicts agree to mood altering medical experiments. The plots are fantastical, but these stories address the human heart and memory.

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