The Best American Short Stories 2004 share button
Lorrie Moore
Format Paperback
Dimensions 1.11 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 8.50 (d)
Pages 498
Publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date October 2004
ISBN 9780618197354
Book ISBN 10 0618197354
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.
Lorrie Moore brings her keen eye for wit and surprise to the volume, and The Best American Short Stories 2004 is an eclectic and enthralling gathering of well-known voices and talented up-and-comers. Here are stories that probe the biggest issues: ambition, gender, romance, war. Here are funny and touching and striking tales of a Spokane Indian, the estranged wife of an Iranian immigrant, an American tutor in Bombay. In her introduction Lorrie Moore writes, "The stories collected here impressed me with their depth of knowledge and feeling of character, setting, and situation . . . They spoke with amused intelligence, compassion, and dispassion."


Publishers Weekly

Moore takes a tried and true tack in this current edition of the popular series, choosing solid stories that rely more on careful character development and seamless writing than on inventiveness or stylistic flash. The results are occasionally stodgy, but there are plenty of satisfying entries, if few startling ones. Family relations are a recurring theme, and two stories of note unearth family ghosts. In John Edgar Wideman's "What We Cannot Speak About We Must Pass Over in Silence," a man is enmeshed in the life of his deceased friend's jailed son; in Trudy Lewis's "Limestone Diner," a grandmother comes to terms with her past through the tragic accident of a local girl. Most stories are firmly rooted in the U.S., but a few roam cautiously afield. In "The Tutor," set in India, Nell Freudenberger explores the dynamics of an expatriate father and daughter relationship; "Mirror Studies" by Mary Yukari Waters takes place in Japan and interestingly weaves in monkey studies. The selection favors well-known writers, including Alice Munro, Annie Proulx and John Updike, and some readers may wish for a more varied lineup-the New Yorker is the source of eight of the 20 entries-but there's no arguing with the power of most of these offerings by the heavy hitters of the contemporary canon. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews

This year's anthology of 20 stories could almost be called The Best of The New Yorker, since 40 percent of guest editor Moore's choices appeared there first. Moore calls the collection "a kind of group portrait of how humanity is currently faring," and one gets the impression that it's faring poorly in rather consistent ways, if the number of characters here who are down-in-the-dumps guys drinking too much is any indication. Sherman Alexie's homeless Spokane Indian in "What You Pawn I Will Redeem" is an alcoholic with a "busted stomach." T. Coraghessan Boyle's southern California transplant in "Tooth and Claw" is most comfortable in a bar filled with old men drinking themselves into oblivion, like his father. And Stuart Dybek's Chicago hit man in "Breasts" wakes up with a hangover on the Sunday he's supposed to "do a job." Then there's John, in Paula Fox's "Grace," a lonely accountant whose dog, Grace, gives him some way of connecting with others until she develops heartworm, resulting in his slugging down four whiskeys and deciding to order a steak. Charles D'Ambrosio's "Screenwriter," who gets a day pass from the psych ward, visits a former patient he calls the ballerina, gets drunk, takes some of her meds, and watches her burn her nipples with cigarettes and pour hot wax on her thigh. John Updike's David Kern, who uses his 50th high-school reunion to remember his first real kiss, is a quiet relief from all this, as are Alice Munro's masterful "Runaway" and the fetching homage to Munro, Trudy Lewis's "Limestone Diner." Mary Yukari Waters and John Edgar Wideman also bring welcome spaciousness, with stories about, respectively, a Japanese primate specialist adjusting to a heart conditionand memories of the war years, and a man whose search for the imprisoned son of a deceased friend opens him back to life. A familiar and ultimately disappointing selection. Short-story aficionados know by now to turn to the Pushcart anthologies for new voices.