Triggered by the post-9/11 changes in the political landscape, this erratic collection of 29 short stories offers new fiction from the likes of Charles Baxter, Anne Ursu, Mark Lee and a host of lesser-known authors from around the world. Edited by writer Stephen Elliott, the anthology begins with Ursu's playfully sardonic "The President's New Clothes." President Bush finds himself trapped in the body of a young Minnesota schoolboy who, despite Dubya's best efforts, can't get anyone to believe that the leader of the free world in Washington, D.C., literally has the mind of a child. Baxter's contribution, "Innocent," is a short dialogue about a man who, in fear of the horror and messiness of "getting involved," flees the scene of a deadly highway accident he has just witnessed—a metaphor for America's attitude toward international conflict and cooperation. Lee's "Memo to Our Journalists" is a short, punchy list of editorial precautions to reporters in Iraq. It includes such pithy advice as "If you and your embedded unit are lost in the countryside and searching for the main road, remember that every adult in the world lies about most things much of the time. Look for a smart, honest nine-year-old." While many of the stories explore such worthwhile topics as the so-called "human shields" in Iraq, efforts to horde Cipro during the anthrax scare and post-apocalyptic sex after 9/11, some of the writing is painfully amateurish. The abundance of inexperienced authors on the roster causes some intriguing conceits to get lost in the shuffle; as an exercise in subversive fiction, this is an interesting if spotty experiment. (Oct.)
FYI: A portion of the proceeds from the sales of this book will go to Oxfam America's humanitarian response in Iraq.
Release date: 10/01/2003