A peek into the literary zeitgeist
The edition seemed to have more of a bent towards sentimental claptrap than usual, earnest stories that ended with a lyrical overbaked image. The stories I preferred evidenced the heavy lifting of imagining a world down to the last detail and the stories I remembered were the politically provocative ones, so my favorite story of the bunch was Jim Shepard’s “The Netherland Lives with Water.” On one hand, it was a warning shot about global warming, on the other, a fully imagined look at Dutch life, and Dutch history. It’s hard to do political/social theme without coming across as heavy handed, but this story was entertaining.
Other stories I liked: Charles Baxter, “The Cousins.” Again, the completely imagined world, the frightening void beneath. “The Cousins” was about repressed WASPS in Manhattan who have no idea what they’re doing. “Safari” by Jennifer Egan, I thought, worked much better as a short story than as a chapter in a novel. I also appreciated the working class grit of “Least Resistance” by Wayne Harrison. I liked the lively prose in “My Last Attempt to Explain To You What Happened with the Lion Tamer” by Brendan Matthews. And “PS” by Jill McCorkle was truly funny and illustrates her skill as a writer. Another feat of magnificent world creation was Karen Russell’s “The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach.”