book cover of The Best American Short Stories 1996

The Best American Short Stories 1996

(A book in the Best American Short Stories series)
An anthology of stories edited by

When a great annual collection comes out, it's hard to know the reason why. Was there a bumper crop of high-quality stories, or was this year's guest editor especially gifted at winnowing out the good ones? Either way, the 2000 edition of The Best American Short Stories is a standout in a series that can be uneven. Its editor, E.L. Doctorow, seems to have a fondness for the "what if?" story, the kind of tale that posits an imagination-prodding question and then attempts to answer it. Nathan Englander's "The Gilgul of Park Avenue" asks: What if a WASPy financial analyst, riding in a cab one day, discovers to his surprise that he is irrevocably Jewish? In "The Ordinary Son," Ron Carlson asks: What if you are the only average person in a family of certifiable geniuses? And Allan Gurganus's "He's at the Office" asks: What if the quintessential postwar American working man were forced to retire? This last story is narrated by the man's grown son, who at the story's opening takes his dad for a walk. Though it's the present day, the father is still dressed in his full 1950s businessman regalia, including camel-hair overcoat and felt hat. The two walk by a teenager. "The boy smiled. 'Way bad look on you, guy.'"
My father, seeking interpretation, stared at me. I simply shook my head no. I could not explain Dad to himself in terms of tidal fashion trends. All I said was "I think he likes you."
The exchange typifies the writing showcased in this anthology: in these stories, again and again, we find a breakdown of human communication that is sprightly, humorous, and devastatingly complete. A few more of the terrific stories featured herein: Amy Bloom's "The Story," a goofy metafiction about a villainous divorcee; Geoffrey Becker's "Black Elvis," which tells of, well, a black Elvis; and Jhumpa Lahiri's "The Third and Final Continent," a story of an Indian man who moves to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Like the collection itself, Lahiri's story amasses a lovely, funny mood as it goes along. --Claire Dederer

Genre: Literary Fiction

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Used availability for Katrina Kenison's The Best American Short Stories 1996

Hardback Editions

November 1996 : USA Hardback

Title: The Best American Short Stories 1996
Author(s): Katrina Kenison
ISBN: 0-395-75291-4 / 978-0-395-75291-3 (USA edition)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   

Paperback Editions

November 1996 : USA Paperback

Title: The Best American Short Stories 1996: Selected from U.S. and Canadian Magazines
Author(s): Katrina Kenison
ISBN: 0-395-75290-6 / 978-0-395-75290-6 (USA edition)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon AU