cover image American Fiction, Volume Ten: The Best Unpublished Short Stories by Emerging Writers

American Fiction, Volume Ten: The Best Unpublished Short Stories by Emerging Writers

. New Rivers Press, $19.95 (259pp) ISBN 978-0-89823-192-2

When he assembled the first of these annual prize anthologies in 1988, the late Raymond Carver awarded first prize to Antonya Nelson. Now Nelson (Nobody's Girl) and her husband, Robert Boswell (Crooked Hearts), have collaborated in choosing this mixed collection of 19 new stories. Realistic description is the cornerstone of most of these tales, which mainly concern domestic and adolescent epiphanies. In first prize-winner Karen Halvorsen Schreck's ""Model Home,"" a teenage boy builds an exquisite miniature house for his sister, as if to compensate for the abuse she suffers from her father and boyfriend. Its pathos contrasts with Sarah McElwain's buoyantly comic second prize story, ""Born Lucky,"" in which phone-sex worker Evening K. Titlebaum's unborn daughter explains how Evening plans to get rich by giving birth to her at midnight on December 31, 1999. In Cathy Day's moving third prize story, ""Boss Man,"" an Indiana campground manager discovers his hidden affinities with the gypsies who plague his site. Among other contributions, Tom Paine's entry, ""The Mayor of Saint John,"" focuses on a shy West Indian substitute teacher, suddenly appointed mayor of the island, whose idealistic dreams are crushed by the cultural invasion of foreigners. Several coming-of-age tales exhibit promise: Stephen Bauer's ""All the Night Could Hold"" explores a boy's fascination with his alcoholic stepfather, while Patricia Ann McNair's affecting ""The Temple of Air"" follows the adventures of a cult member's chronically ignored adolescent daughter. Although the volume provides pleasant reading, however one looks in vain for stories that presage talent equal to that of the two judges in their early work. (June)