Friday, December 31, 2010

The Best American Short Stories of 2005 edited by Michael Chabon


The Best American Short Stories of 2005 edited by Michael Chabon is one of the fifteen books I chose to read or get rid of in 2010.  Although all of these stories are very good, some appealed to me more than others.

That is one of the reasons I enjoy reading an anthology such as this; it affords me the opportunity to sample new writers without committing to an entire novel.  A short story that engages me and makes me think or feel or think and feel is bound to make me seek out the author, especially if they have published a novel or two.

The challenge in putting together an anthology like this is to keep each story from conflicting too much with the next, of creating a sort of integrity hard to attain with such disparate authors and themes.  Chabon does a remarkable job of making this work.

The stories that stood out for me are:

The Smile on Happy Chang’s Face by Tom Perrotta
Eight Pieces for the Left Hand by J Robert Lennon
The Secret Goldfish by David Means
and
Justice Shiva Ram Murthy by Rishi Reddi

At the back of this book, a brief bio about the author is given plus the author’s explanation of how they came to be inspired to write the story.  I found this added feature fascinating because I am always curious about the creative process of other writers.  In the few paragraphs (one for each writer of a short story), I learned as much as the hundreds of droning pages of some other books.  Inspiration comes from anything, from anywhere.  Rough starts are made and then changed and then revised until, after much work, the final product is there before you.

For anyone wanting to meet new authors on the page, these best of anthologies are a worthy investment (or worth borrowing from the library anyway).  I definitely enjoyed this one and wouldn’t turn my back on another collection from this series if it were to come my way.  But not in 2011; not unless it is edited and written only by women, that is.

(An interesting aside.  There are 21 stories total, 7 written by women.  I chose only one written by a woman as a favorite.  Usually, I am more balanced but I wonder if I was slanted in this gender biased direction due to the balance already being skewed.  Earlier today I read a list of the most anticipated young adult novels of 2011.  The list was written by a young woman and every author on the list was also a woman.  On another list, a business man asked for book recommendations and every book mentioned thus far is written by a man.)



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