The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Best American Short Stories 2007 by Stephen King (Editor) and Heidi Pitlor (Series Editor)

Reviewed by WC

The Best American Short Stories 2007 by Stephen KingPublisher:  Mariner Books          
Release Date:  October 2007
Pages:  448

About the Book:  In his introduction to this volume, Stephen King writes, “Talent does more than come out; it bursts out, again and again, doing exuberant cartwheels while the band plays 'Stars and Stripes Forever' . . . Talent can’t help itself; it roars along in fair weather or foul, not sparing the fireworks. It gets emotional. It struts its stuff. In fact, that’s its job.”

Wonderfully eclectic, The Best American Short Stories 2007 collects stories by writers of undeniable talent, both newcomers and favorites. These stories examine the turning points in life when we, as children or parents, lovers or friends or colleagues, must break certain rules in order to remain true to ourselves. In T. C. Boyle’s heartbreaking “Balto,” a thirteen-year-old girl provides devastating courtroom testimony in her father’s trial. Aryn Kyle’s charming story “Allegiance” shows a young girl caught between her despairing British mother and motherly American father. In “The Bris,” Eileen Pollack brilliantly writes of a son struggling to fulfill his filial obligations, even when they require a breach of morality and religion. Kate Walbert’s stunning “Do Something” portrays one mother’s impassioned and revolutionary refusal to accept her son’s death. And in Richard Russo’s graceful “Horseman,” an English professor comes to understand that plagiarism reveals more about a student than original work can.

New series editor Heidi Pitlor writes, “[Stephen King’s] dedication, unflagging hard work, and enthusiasm for excellent writing shone through on nearly a daily basis this past year . . . We agreed, disagreed, and in the end very much concurred on the merit of the twenty stories chosen.” The result is a vibrant assortment of stories and voices brimming with attitude, deep wisdom, and rare compassion.

WC's Review:  Stephen King, no stranger to short fiction, claims this collection of stories contains "not a single one ...that didn't delight me, that didn't make me want to crow 'Oh man, you gotta read this!'" Sadly, only one in this collection fits that category, generally reserved for masterpieces as Ray Russell's 1961 classic, "Sardonicus" and "To Build a Fire" by Jack London.
"Sans Farine", originally published in Harper's by Jim Shepard, is good. A tale of the strange under goings of the French Revolution, this riveting story features in part the history and development and initial usage of "the lady of mercy," the guillotine. Well done, perhaps enough to chortle about, although King has admitted his own works don't amount to much more than warmed up chicken noodle soup.