Prize Stories 1989: The O. Henry Awards

William Miller Abrahams, Editor Anchor Books $19 (400p) ISBN 978-0-385-24634-7
A nanny remains peripheral to the lives of her beloved wards; a free spirit is held captive by his mad son; an old woman purges her home with running water--``pure, baptismal''--after the death of her tyrannical husband; there are no winners in a savage showdown between two powerful prisoners; and a boy whose scruples and singular sense of honor compel him to inform on his friends evokes, many years after the event, pity and admiration from one of his victims. Mostly culled from small literary magazines, the 20 stories in this 69th volume in the annual O. Henry Awards series--published simultaneously in trade paper and cloth editions for the first time--authentically highlight aspects of contemporary experience: often protagonists mourn the loss of a child, fret over impending parenthood or have difficulty relating to family members/lovers. But the collection as a whole, while always technically adept, is, nevertheless, enervated by the emotional sterility of some characters and plots, the latter demonstrated, for example, in ``Wrong Stories,'' a story about the telling of stories. Winners include Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Adams, Rick Bass and Charles Dickinson. Abrahams is a senior editor at Dutton. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/22/1989
Release date: 03/01/1989
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