100 Years of the Best American Short Stories

100 Years of the Best American Short Stories

Book - 2015
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Collects forty short stories published between 1915 and 2015, from writers that include Ernest Hemingway, John Updike, and Alice Munro that exemplify their era and stand the test of time.


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Apr 08, 2019

" Then they all gathered around Sonny and Sonny played. Every now and again one of them seemed to say, Amen. Sonny's fingers filled the air with life, his life. But that life contained so many others. And Sonny went all the way back, he really began with the spare, flat statement of the opening phrase of the song. Then he began to make it his. It was very beautiful because it wasn't hurried and it was no longer a lament. I seemed to hear with what burning he had made it his, with what burning he we had yet to make it ours, how we could cease lamenting. Freedom lurked around us and I understood, at last, that he could help us to be free if we would listen, that he would never be free until we did. Yet, there was no battle in his face now. I heard what he had gone through, and would continue to go through until he came to rest in earth."----Baldwin writes presciently as if he were writing of Roberta Flack, and Don Maclean, of George Harrison, and John Lennon, of Bobby Zimmerman, and Jim Morrison. In other words, he wrote this story for the ages; it was not limited to race or sexual preference. Thus, it is the finest art there is in literature. Imagine that. . . this man wrote lyrically of the making of music, in this case, jazz. Do i say it is the best of this collection? I do not.

Sep 13, 2017

I don't enjoy short stories as a rule, but found this book interesting in letting me sample a variety of authors, some well-known and some I'd never heard of before. I like best the Sherman Alexi story (some humor and a lot of outlook on the American Indian experience from one of their own). Philip Roth's story was a pleasant surprise as I have never enjoyed his writings and after two attempts at his earlier novels, skip over him. I found this tale a good "coming of age" take on something that may or may not have really happened. It was also interesting to read, or at least try to get into some very well-known and venerated authors and finding them not much to my liking - but at least I now have an idea of why I don't care to read certain authors.

Jul 07, 2017

Look I know this took me two months to finish but I have a very good reason for that, alright? These stories are all so dense, each one like a rich, delicate cheesecake. You don't just eat 40 cheesecakes in a week, do you? No, you eat one whole cheesecake every day, like an average American. So that is what I did, I read a story each day or every other day, giving these stories time to sink in, enjoying each delicious sentence as I wandered through the history of one of America's finest publications.


A Goodreads review could not possibly cover the scope of these stories so I will just highlight the very best of the best. To start from the beginning, F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Babylon Revisited" is a great story about a man's love for his daughter and the alcoholism that prevents their being together. It's so good that it makes me want to revisit Fitzgerald's other works even after attempting to read that boring Gatsby book (Come at me, nerds). John Cheever's "The Enormous Radio" is a strange tale of domestic life with a supernatural twist, while James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues" tells the story of a drug-addicted jazz pianist from his brother's perspective, and describes music more beautifully than any writing I've ever seen.


As this tome moved into authors of more recent years, I worked my way through absurd and poignant stories like Mona Simpson's "Lawns", about a girl trying to break off a physical relationship with her father as she makes her way through college. There were also more diverse stories of people affected by colonialism and immigration, such as in Jamaica Kincaid's "Xuela" and Jhumpa Lahiri's "The Third and Final Continent." There isn't much sci-fi or satire to speak of other than George Saunders' "The Semplica-Girls Diaries" which is an incredible story that makes you identify with people from two sides of a point of contention. But probably the best story of all, in my estimation, is "What You Pawn I will Redeem" by Sherman Alexie. No story in this volume is written more clearly, more effectively, or more humorously while relating very serious problems plaguing native American people. If you read only one story from the collection, that's the one to read.


There were some stories I skipped as you can only eat so many flavors of cheesecake before you find one that doesn't sit well, but even if it's not a perfect collection, it is still a great collection for its sheer coverage and scope. Reading from cover to cover provides a fascinating look at the history of the American short story, showing how our perspectives, ideals, and stories have changed so dramatically, while still remaining so essentially American. Now if you'll excuse me, I've eaten quite a bit of cheesecake and may need to regurgitate some of it onto my own paper. For isn't that what writing is at its most basic? Taking the ideas of others, digesting them, and creating your own projects from their inspiration? I don't know. The one thing I do know is that I could really go for some cheesecake.


More Reviews at https://www.goodreads.com/mancolepig

Feb 01, 2016


Very little from early years and most from 1970's to present day. Could be more balanced. There are NOT more good stories today than there were years ago. I expected the very best through all the decades. Big, chunky heavy book not conducive to reading.


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