cover image Writers Harvest 3

Writers Harvest 3

. Delta, $12.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-385-33377-1

An SOS ties together the stories in this collection, but here the initials stand for Share Our Strength, an umbrella organization to relieve hunger, which will receive all the profits from this volume. And it's a nourishing brew: all 15 stories are solid, thought-provoking examples of recent American fiction at its best. Some of the writers (Barry Lopez, Joyce Carol Oates, John Barth, Mary Gordon, Frederick Busch, Stewart O'Nan, the late Andre Dubus) are well known; some (Tim Gautreaux, Ralph Lombreglia, Chris Offutt, Jim Shepard) are critically admired and hover at the margin of commercial success, while others (Bridget Rohan Garrity, Thomas Beller, Jacob Molyneux, Jason Brown) are relative newcomers. Most of the stories are domestic, dealing with the struggles to communicate within a family, and with the value, as opposed to the price, of things. In her depiction of an ur-Marilyn Monroe's confrontation with a godlike photographer, Oates manages to be haunting without being gothic. In the title story from his collection Out of the Woods, Offutt produces a variation on the old push-pull of roots and rootlessness, of leaving home and coming back transfigured. Shepard's wrenching, compassionate tale of two adult brothers, ""'Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy,"" manages to make violence resemble a kind of love. In ""Cashmere Christmas,"" Lombreglia serves up his trademark mix of the poignant and the incongruous in the person of a woman who long ago lost her faith, and who yearns for rebirth in Florida while worrying about the implications of serving leg of lamb on Christmas Eve: ""Privately she prayed that her roast was not the transubstantiated haunch of The Savior."" This collection is a bounty of unique and convincing voices. (Feb.)