cover image The Best American Short Stories 2000

The Best American Short Stories 2000

. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $27.5 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-395-92687-1

In an anthology that once again lives up to its title, guest editor Doctorow presents an eclectic mix of 21 stunning stories by writers of varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Each short fiction conjures up its own atmospheric world; most provide memorable glimpses deep into the souls of its characters. Five of the selections hail from the New Yorker, three from Story, two each from Harper's magazine, the Atlantic Monthly and Ploughshares. In his introduction, Doctorow quotes Frank O'Connor: ""What makes the short story a distinct literary form is `its intense awareness of human loneliness,'"" a quality that applies to many of these tales. The protagonist of Amy Bloom's ""The Story,"" bitter at having lost a baby and a husband while her new neighbor has an adorable daughter and a lover, callously destroys the ""guilty"" woman's life. Veteran mystery writer Walter Mosley tells in ""The Fly"" of a young black man unjustly accused of sexual harassment after only a few days on the job at a Wall Street firm. ""Call If You Need Me,"" a newly unearthed story by the late Raymond Carver, is a terse, understated tale of the dissolution of a marriage. The pi ce de r sistance is by Wyoming-based writer Annie Proulx, ""People in Hell Just Want a Drink of Water,"" the tale of a brain-damaged young man who suffers rough frontier justice. Seen by neighbors as an example of bad genetics, he is ""culled from the herd,"" so to speak. Other outstanding contributions are ""Black Elvis"" by Geoffrey Becker, ""Third and Final Continent"" by Jhumpa Lahiri and Allan Gurganus's ""He's at the Office."" The standards are high, and all of the stories meet them, in a sterling collection. (Oct.)