Virgin Fiction

Eugene Stein, Editor, Rob Weisbach Books, Editor Rob Weisbach Books $14 (224p) ISBN 978-0-688-16081-4
The smart online magazine Salon sponsored a short-story contest last year, named, with uncharacteristic tackiness, Virgin Fiction. The premise, to publish previously unpublished authors under the age of 35, is wonderful, although the results of the first anthology reflect mainstream creative writing culture more than the outer reaches of Net zaniness. Among the stories worth noting are Amy Gebler's ""C Clamp,"" which describes the preparations for a wedding with a strong, shaping sense of contemporary life reminiscent of Anne Beattie; Lee Harrington's ""Live Bait,"" in which a wife finds a novel way to stop her husband from cheating; Todd Dorman's darkly humorous ""Wasn't That It,"" which chronicles the stay of a suicidal stalker in an institution for the socially misfit; and Courtney Saunders's ""Wes Looks Like Paul Newman and I Don't,"" a comic story of the rivalry between two brothers told with a Texas twang--and the only story, significantly, that uses the kind of twist beloved of O. Henry. There are some forays into unusual territory: Paula R. Rhyman, for instance, in ""The Middle Way,"" imagines the inner life of a 12-year-old Thai girl sold into prostitution; Tony Carbone, in ""the end of the beltline,"" employs the kind of surrealism familiar to readers of Usenet groups; and Shamira Gratch's ""Second Skin"" takes up Chicano themes with a certain lyricism in the story of an enormously fat young boy's Halloween. Even if Virgin Fiction isn't yet up there with the Pushcart Prizes or the O. Henry Awards, this is a noble, promising start. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
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