100 Years of the Best American Short Stories
Short stories are about trouble in mind. A bit of blues. Songs and cries that reveal the range and ways of human character. The secret ordinary and the ordinary secret.
Lorrie Moore in the Introduction to 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories.
This book is a gift. One of my greatest aspirations is to read all of the stories in the book and I am not there yet. A bit of background: since 1915, guest editors have compiled the best American short stories into a collection. When it was first started by Edward O’Brien, the compilation was showcased as a series in a magazine before being picked up by a publishing company. Over the years, some of the greatest names in literature have served as guest editors of the compilations – Barbara Kingsolver, Ann Patchett, and Junot Diaz, to name a few.
As the name implies, 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories traces the history of American short fiction from 1915 – 2015 when the book was released. And features short fiction from some of the best authors of our time: Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Baldwin, Joyce Carol Oates, Grace Paley, Jhumpa Lahiri.
As with all of the compilations that I have featured this week, this collection is a like a Greatest Hits Album compilation of your favorite singers…you inevitably go to the singer whose music you are familiar with and listen to your heart’s content before curiosity takes you to the other music featured on the album and then you make new discoveries. Such it was with me when I first got this book – I read the authors whose work I was familiar with and then went on a journey of discovery and found some new authors whose work engaged my mind and inspired me…I will share one of those tomorrow. Although I would like to finish this collection, part of me does not want to, I want to keep enjoying this book and discovering new gifts like this one from the 1980-1990 decennial: Charles Baxter’s Harmony of the World:
After the failure of Harmony of the World, Hindermith went on a strenuous tour that included Scandinavia. In Oslo, he was rehearsing the Philharmonic when he blinked his bright blue eyes twice, turned to the concertmaster, and said, “I don’t know where I am” They took him away to a hospital; he had suffered a nervous breakdown.