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The annual Best American Short Stories is once again at hand.

Book Cover While preparing my chat with American short fiction samurai Tobias Wolff for publication, I realized that though I greatly appreciate short stories I have not been paying sufficient attention to them in this space. Luckily, I have the 2009 edition of The Best American Short Stories at hand.

As you may know, this series has a long and honorable history dating back to 1915, as well as a permanent editor, Heidi Pitlor, who is joined each year by a guest editor--this year, Alice Sebold. And as is the customary practice, each volume contains about 20 short fictions, culled from a wide-ranging smorgasbord of magazines and finally selected from about a hundred stories by the guest editor. And, as has been the case, there are well-known names from well-known publications and newcomers from not-so-well-known periodicals.

This year, Daniel Alarcón, Annie Proulx, Yiyun Li, Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum (The New Yorker), Joseph Epstein (Commentary), Richard Powers (Conjunctions), Kevin Moffett, Adam Johnson (Tin House), Ron Rash (The Southern Review), and Jill McCorkle (Narrative Magazine) are joined by Steve De Jarnatt (Santa Monica Review), Alice Fulton (Tin House), Karl Taro Greenfeld (American Short Fiction), Eleanor Henderson (Agni), Greg Hrbek (Black Warrior Review), Victoria Lancelotta (The Gettysburg Review), Rebecca Makkai (New England Review), Alex Rose (Ploughshares), Ethan Rutherford (American Short Fiction), and Namwali Serpell (Callaloo) to round out a cornucopia of short narratives.

Sebold introduces the anthology:
More than mere solace is to be gained by reading good stories--short stories in particular. Stories provide an endless access into another world, brought forth by an infinite number of gifted minds. A story about grief can comfort; a story about arrogance can shock and yet confirm; a story populated largely by landscape, whether lush or industrial, can expand the realm that we as individuals inhabit.
She echoes Pitlor's conviction that these selections "demonstrate the human ability to endure crises and to regenerate afterward. There is nothing safe about these stories."
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