THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 2004

Lorrie Moore, Author, Katrina Kenison, With , series editor Katrina Kenison. Houghton Mifflin $14 (462p) ISBN 978-0-618-19735-4

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.)

Reviewed on: 10/04/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
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