Best of Times, Worst of Times: Contemporary American Short Stories from the New Gilded Age

Edited by Wendy Martin and Cecelia Tichi. New York Univ., $24 (357) ISBN 978-0-8147-9628-3
Professors Martin (The Cambridge Introduction to Emily Dickinson) and Tichi (Civic Passions) anthologize 24 stories published between 1982 and 2006 by both established and up-and-coming American authors. Though a stilted introduction and clich├ęd Academic groupings reduce complexity to socio-economic phenomena and political manifestations, the stories themselves provide a useful reader for American Lit and MFA writing courses. Tom Franklin's "The Ballad of Duane Juarez" tells the story of a dispossessed man whose wealthy landlord brother bids him to rid the property of cats; that this ultimately involves a pistol, and shotgun, and a trip into the woods with a borrowed Porsche makes it horrifying and funny and illustrates Franklin's greatness. The much anthologized "Shiloh" by Bobbie Ann Mason and "How to Date a Brown Girl (black girl, white girl, or halfie)" by Junot Diaz makes appearances, the latter preceding Updike's "Metamorphosis" and David Foster Wallace's "Think." Tom Bissell's lesser-known "Expensive Trips to Nowhere" anchors one section, and hilarious and harrowing stories by Bukowski, Miranda July, and Walter Mosley round out another. The stories more than fulfill the editors' promise to "chronicle an America of a second Gilded Age." (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/21/2011
Release date: 04/01/2011
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 357 pages - 978-0-8147-9627-6
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