John Kulka, Editor, Natalie Danford, Editor, Francine Prose, Editor , series editors John Kulka and Natalie Danford. Harcourt $14 (380p) ISBN 978-0-15-602899-8

"How can the written word be dead when it is being deployed with such spirit and vitality?" asks guest editor Francine Prose in her introduction to this provocative collection of 17 stories chosen from writing programs and arts organizations around the country. More realistic than experimental, the stories ricochet between themes of love and loss; the best ones give readers the feeling they're swimming across the surface of an ocean when a shiver of cold betrays the great depths that lie beneath. Frances Hwang's mournful depiction of an estranged Chinese couple stuck with a deadbeat tenant in "Garden City" is a portrait of lives consumed with regret. "The Cosmonaut" by Ian David Froeb beautifully captures the parallels between two grieving men brought together under literally cosmic circumstances. A number of the stories document cultural clashes in progress. When the exasperated Thai farmer in Rattawut Lapcharoensap's "Farangs" takes one look at the bikini-clad American tourist girl who's come to ride his elephant and asks, "What if I went to her country and rode a bald eagle in my underwear, huh?" it's clear that as the world gets smaller, the potential for conflict looms large. Other selections depict fascinating communities of Sikhs, Sri Lankans and Singaporean Chinese. If this anthology of up-and-coming writers is any indication, the prognosis for the written word is very good. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 10/04/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
Paperback - 318 pages - 978-0-15-603155-4
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