cover image The Best Short Stories 2023: The O. Henry Prize Winners

The Best Short Stories 2023: The O. Henry Prize Winners

Edited by Lauren Groff. Anchor, $18 (432p) ISBN 978-0-593-47059-6

Novelist and story writer Groff (Florida) outlines in her introduction to this standout collection the criteria for judging the hundreds of submissions: do they thrill or take risks, do they challenge expectations, and do they have staying power? The answer, for each selection, is yes. They represent greatest hits from some of the best recent collections, including Ling Ma’s “Office Hours,” about a film professor who finds refuge in a fantastical outdoor setting accessed from her office closet, and “The Haunting of Hajji Hotak” by Jamil Jon Kochai, in which a second-person narrator puts together the story of his Afghan American family as if he’s a spy performing surveillance. Among other dazzling performances from some of today’s most exciting writers, Catherine Lacey’s “Man Mountain” encapsulates a woman’s ambivalence concerning men with a brief piece of fabulism about a kilometer-high pile of men that she sets out to climb. A sense of precarity and urgency defines many of the entries (“There was no time for time,” says Lacey’s narrator; “There isn’t enough air in the air,” laments the protagonist of Rachel B. Glaser’s funny and incisive “Ira and the Whale,” a gay man trapped in a leviathan’s stomach). This is one of the best fiction anthologies in years. (Sept.)