The Best American Short Stories 2003 share button
Walter Mosley
Format Paperback
Dimensions 0.86 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 5.50 (d)
Pages 386
Publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date October 2003
ISBN 9780618197330
Book ISBN 10 0618197338
About Book

Since its inception in 1915, the Best American series has become the premier annual showcase for the country's finest short fiction and nonfiction. For each volume, a series editor reads pieces from hundreds of periodicals, then selects between fifty and a hundred outstanding works. That selection is pared down to twenty or so very best pieces by a guest editor who is widely recognized as a leading writer in his or her field. This unique system has helped make the Best American series the most respected—and most popular—of its kind.
Lending a fresh perspective to a perennial favorite, Walter Mosley has chosen unforgettable short stories by both renowned writers and exciting newcomers. The Best American Short Stories 2003 features poignant tales that explore the nuances of family life and love, birth and death. Here are stories that will, as Mosley writes in his introduction, "live with the reader long after the words have been translated into ideas and dreams. That's because a good short story crosses the borders of our nations and our prejudices and our beliefs."

Dorothy Allison Edwidge Danticat E. L. Doctorow Louise Erdrich Adam Haslett ZZ Packer Mona Simpson Mary Yukari Waters


Charles Taylor

Killing Johnny Fry is a frankly pornographic novel, and I mean that as a compliment. It would be unfair to what Mosley is attempting here - to put sex at the center of Cordell’s existence and to turn the reader on in the process - to describe the sex scenes with that wan word “erotica,” a word almost always used to demonstrate that the user is above those coarse enough to be aroused by mere pornography. And judged solely by its intentions to appeal to what prosecutors in obscenity cases used to call the prurient interest, the novel is a success. Good porn is tough to write and when talented writers decide it shouldn’t be left to the hacks, the result can be something as joyous as Nicholson Baker’s Vox and The Fermata. Or even something as voluptuously smutty as the porn-for-cash Alexander Trocchi turned out for Maurice Girodias’s Olympia Press.
— The New York Times

Tracy Quan

When a national treasure like Mosley decides to publish a dirty novel, snippy reactions are inevitable. Does a journey of sexual discovery have to be quite this filthy? But if Cordell's misadventures were too palatable, if this were a novel one could read over lunch, it wouldn't be authentic porn. Fans of his Easy Rawlins series might be put off by the surreal absurdity, but perhaps Mosley is reaching out to new readers. Or, like Bill Clinton, a fan of Mosley's early work, perhaps he's doing something audacious because he can.
— The Washington Post

Publishers Weekly

Mosley returns from the vastly underrated Fortunate Son and from Fear of the Dark with a piece of what one might call "deep erotica": there's plenty of sex, and also plenty of motivation for it within protagonist Cordel Carmel's travails and ruminations, as far-fetched as they can get. After a charged-but-chaste lunch with young Lucy Carmichael (a blonde in her early 20s looking to be introduced to Cordel's art agent friend), Cordel, 45, walks in on Joelle (his longtime, non-live-in girlfriend): Joelle's being very consensually sodomized by a white man wearing a red condom, their (very well-endowed) mutual acquaintance, Johnny Fry. Cordel walks out quietly, without being seen. In short order, Cordel buys a porno video and gets enraptured with its sadist star, Sisypha; quits his freelance-translation gig; has conflicted, amazing sex with Joelle (who continues to lie to him); has unconflicted, amazing sex with Lucy (who seems very nice) and with voluptuous neighbor Sasha Bennett (who seems way crazy); meets Sisypha for an Eyes Wide Shut-like experience; seduces the young, ghetto Monica Wells; and finally, within the week, has his confrontation with Johnny Fry. Though it all, Cordel's thoughts on humiliation, submission, pain, family, aging and abuse manage to sustain the wisp-thin plot of this total male fantasy. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal

Like his last two adult novels (The Wave and Fortunate Son), Mosley's latest is a departure from his best-selling Easy Rawlins mysteries. His protagonist, 45-year-old translator Cordell Carmel, considers himself lucky that girlfriend Joelle is so undemanding that they spend only one night a week together. Stopping by Joelle's apartment unannounced one day, he discovers her with another man, aspiring musician Johnny Fry. That night, Cordell buys his first X-rated DVD and begins a journey of sexual self-discovery. Watching The Myth of Sisypha, the vividly described adult film he has purchased, opens Cordell's eyes to a world of sex and power, pleasure and pain. He explores his renewed sexual energy with a young photographer he's helping, an attractive neighbor, a French student he meets on the subway, and Sisypha herself. Mosley's decision to subtitle the book "a sexistenial novel" implies a more philosophical approach to sexuality than the gratuitous sexual episodes described here. Recommended only for libraries with strong demand for all of Mosley's work.-Karen Kleckner, Deerfield P.L., IL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews

And now for something completely different from Easy Rawlins' prolific creator (Cinnamon Kiss, 2005, etc.), who's branching out into still another genre. Cordell Carmel, a middle-aged New York translator everybody calls "L," decides one afternoon on his way to a conference to wait a few hours for a first-class train to Philadelphia. Heading over to girlfriend Joelle Petty's apartment, he finds her sharing a frantic embrace with Johnny Fry, a white man who'd like to switch from being a personal trainer to playing classical guitar. Instead of calling attention to himself, L leaves quietly (though he does turn back briefly when he thinks Jo is crying out in pain) and proceeds to pull down the edifice of his carefully constructed life. He smashes his hand against a brick wall, orders a high-fat meal, buys an expensive bottle of cognac and takes home a porn video, The Myth of Sisypha, that puts him in touch with his appetite for passion and pain. The next day, after missing the conference and infuriating his agent, L begins to grab every chance at a new life. He reinvents himself as an agent for photographer Lucy Carmichael, flirts with female acquaintances and takes three of them to bed, then returns to Jo bent on getting some of the kind of wild, crazy sex she's been enjoying with Johnny. But it's The Myth of Sisypha that has the most profound impact on L, and when he has a chance to meet the video's star and embark on a series of scenarios that cross the line from NC-17 to XXX, his obsessions with getting off and killing Johnny are joined by another kind of desire as tender as it is unlikely. An interesting look at a male in midlife crisis. As L says, "I had come alive. And lifehurt."Agent: Gloria Loomis/Watkins Loomis Agency Inc.