Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I re-visited The Best American Short Stories: 1989 in order to round out the year. I have a half-dozen half-completed books on the end table, but didn't feel compelled to crank through them before 2010. I'll finish those before the Mayan apocalypse.

I went back to this collection after 20 years because several stories stuck with me: "White Angel," by Michael Cunningham, "Ralph, the Duck" by Frederick Busch, "Customs of the Country" by Madison Smartt Bell, "Strays" by Mark Richard, "What Men Love For" by Dale Ray Phillips, "Black-Hand Girl," by Blanche McCrary Boyd, Larry Brown's "Kubuku Rides (This is It)"...I could go on. It's very unusual for me to remember so vividly so many different stories; I read a lot, and forget completely what I read weeks ago, let alone decades back. To remember this collection 20 years later made it stand out to such a degree that I had to dig it out, even though I gave up reading the Best American stories series more than ten years ago.

Atwood's selections hold up. This is a varied collection, touching on adolescent angst, the Cold War, rednecks, Native Americans, drugs, old age, lonely women in misery...I will re-read it another 20 years down the line if I have breath in my body.

Strangely, I had in mind an entire narrative about this collection, and how it was used in a writing course taken at Loyola College in Baltimore when I was still a teenager, and as I picked up the book with its broken spine I could even picture some of the girls in that class (I think I was the only male in the Writing Seminars that year). But the dates don't match up. This book came out two years later than that course, which means I read the 1983 collection in that class, and I remember nothing from that collection. But it still shimmers brightly at the commencement of what I'd always hoped would be the career of a writer. Now that dream has faded but my appreciation of fine stories hasn't. The 1989 collection must have been from Popular Lit with Dr. Siegel at York College of Pennsylvania. If memory serves...


ellen cherry said...

dude. you're a writer. you HAVE to know this. you write, we read. that's how it works! happy new year to you guys!

Anonymous said...

Here, here!

Kai in NYC