Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Best American Short Stories 2007, Edited by Stephen King, Series Editor Heidi Pitlor

When I was a kid, even before I wanted to be a musician, I wanted to be a short story writer. Not an author or the more generic title of "writer," but specifically a short story writer. As an adolescent, I would sit in my room and read the short stories of O. Henry, Mark Twain, Ray Bradbury, Edgar Allen Poe and pretty much anyone else I could get my hands on. I certainly read lots of novels and probably more nonfiction than someone my age would usually read but, it was the short stories that made me dream of one day becoming a writer.

I guess I still carry this dream around or at least the love for great short fiction. While cruising the Amazon Kindle Store trying to choose a new book to read on my beloved Kindle reading device (if you don't know what that is and you're even a semi serious reader, you owe it to yourself to visit the Kindle page at Amazon) I ran across a new collection of short stories by Stephen King. I've always loved his short fiction so, I clicked the link to read the descriptions and reviews of the book. In the description it mentioned that King had rekindled (that's probably an unfortunate pun, since I was reading about this on my Kindle) his interest in writing short fiction while editing the 2007 edition of the popular "Best American Short Stories" series.

While I still plan to read King's new collection, my interest immediately shifted to this anthology. One of the great things about Stephen King is that he is not only a gifted writer, no matter what the literary snobs sometimes think, but he is also one of the world's foremost fans of fiction and his selections for this yearly collection did not disappoint.

The titles and authors of the powerful stories in this book are too numerous to mention here so I'll just say that there wasn't a week story in the bunch and there were several which had me thumbing to the author notes at the back of the book to find out what else they had written. I hadn't read one of the annual best of books for several years and I had forgotten how strongly they reaffirm my belief that short fiction is not dead and, like blues or jazz in clubs all over the world, is still being practiced and honed to a fine art in dozens of literary magazines just outside the window of mainstream fiction.

The question is, did this collection make me want to be a short story writer again? I would say yes but that particular dream has never completely died.

1 comment:

Indeterminacy said...

Sounds like an excellent anthology - I think I will order it. I know absolutely nothing about contemporary American writers.

I've always loved reading - but it wasn't until I moved to Germany that I started reading more of the classic short stories of the names you mention. My favorite short stories back then (and they are still great) are the short stories of Robert Sheckley.

At the moment I'm waiting for an anthology of Ring Lardner baseball stories to arrive.