The Best American Short Stories 2001 share button
Barbara Kingsolver
Format Paperback
Dimensions 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.89 (d)
Pages 402
Publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date October 2001
ISBN 9780395926888
Book ISBN 10 0395926882
About Book

This year’s Best American Short Stories is edited by the critically acclaimed and best-selling author Barbara Kingsolver, whose latest book is Prodigal Summer. Kingsolver’s selections for The Best American Short Stories 2001 showcase a wide variety of new voices and masters, such as Alice Munro, Rick Moody, Dorothy West, and John Updike. “Reading these stories was both a distraction from and an anchor to the complexities of my life—my pleasure, my companionship, my salvation. I hope they will be yours.”—Barbara Kingsolver


Publishers Weekly

If the 20 stories in this year's collection have any one thing in common, it is their substance and seriousness of purpose. This is mostly a good thing entries by veteran writers like Alice Munro, John Updike and Annette Sanford, and by relative newcomers like Andrea Barrett, Barbara Klein Moss and Peter Orner are intellectually stimulating and satisfying but the inclusion of a few lighter selections might have leavened the mix. Munro is her usual magical self in "Post and Beam," in which a young Vancouver wife comes to terms with the immutability of married life. Ha Jin, in "After Cowboy Chicken Came to Town," tells of the impact an American fast food franchise in China has on both employees and customers, imparting a number of reasons why East and West will never see eye to eye. "Servants of the Map," the extraordinary novella- length story by Barrett, tells the tale of an English mapmaker in 1860s India struggling with his demanding job, loneliness and, most of all, his unquenchable desire to be a botanist. In Orner's brief tale, "The Raft," a grandfather ushers his grandson into a closet to tell him an old WWII story in a new way. Sanford's contribution short, too tells how a 16-year-old girl seemingly doing nothing for the summer is preparing for adult life. The careful character development, subtle drama and pristine prose of these selections should once again thoroughly satisfy fans of quality short fiction. $200,000 marketing campaign; sweepstakes promotion. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Library Journal

In his introduction to Prize Stories 2001, editor Dark notes an increase in the number of longer stories, or novellas, being published in literary journals. To reflect this trend, Dark chose to publish three longer pieces, bringing the total number of stories in this year's volume to 17 rather than the usual 20. One of these, Mary Swan's "The Deep," an absorbing account of twin sisters in the World War I era, was chosen as the best story of the year. Runners up were Dan Chaon's "Big Me" and Alice Munro's "Floating Bridge." Munro also receives a special citation for her continued notable work in the short story form. Dark writes that he was torn between Munro's above-mentioned story and her equally fine "Post and Beam;" happily, the latter appears in Best American Short Stories 2001. Kingsolver narrowed her selections by opting for only those that "tell me something I don't already know." So we get funny and intriguing views of other cultures, such as Ha Jin's "After Cowboy Chicken Came to Town," which is about the workers in an American fast-food restaurant in China; Katherine Shonk's "My Mother's Garden," set near post-disaster Chernobyl; and Trevanian's sly Basque fable, "The Apple Tree." Two well-deserving stories, Elizabeth Graver's "The Mourning Door" and Andrea Barrett's "Servants of the Map," appear in both volumes. Both volumes are valuable additions to academic and larger public libraries. Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews

An excellent new edition of this popular anthology. As might be expected from the author of several carefully researched novels (Prodigal Summer, 2000, etc.), guest editor Kingsolver suggests a predilection for stories with extraordinary content. In a lively introduction, she lays out three criteria for her selections: "They've told me something remarkable, they are beautifully executed, and they are nested in truth." And most of the stories here do have "something remarkable" to tell. Rather than depicting the subtleties of "everyday American life," these tales usually opt for more exotic subjects. Ha Jin's "After Cowboy Chicken Came to Town" depicts what it's like to work at an American fast food restaurant in China, while Peter Ho Davies's "Think of England" takes place in and around a Welsh countryside pub on the night after the D-day landing. Katherine Shonk's "My Mother's Garden" presents life near Chernobyl's contaminated zone, while Andrea Barrett's "Servants of the Map" centers on a British surveyor in the Himalayas during the 1860s. The stories not set in far-flung locations are often about unusual perspectives, like that of the morbidly obese man in Claire Davis's "Labors of the Heart" or of the character in Rick Bass's ultra-factual "The Fireman." Such tales can leave one with the feeling of having read nonfiction as much as fiction. Kingsolver allows quotidian subject matter only if it's in the hands of an Alice Munro ("Post and Beam") or a John Updike ("Personal Archeology"). Younger writers-a generous number are here-have to earn their way by writing about Hong Kong, Madagascar, or Buffalo in the1930s. Also of interest is a posthumously published story by the HarlemRenaissance writer Dorothy West (1907-98). A vibrant, diverse collection.