cover image Playboy Stories: 2the Best of Forty Years of Short Fiction

Playboy Stories: 2the Best of Forty Years of Short Fiction

Various, Alice K. Turner. Dutton Books, $24.95 (624pp) ISBN 978-0-525-93735-7

That Playboy has always showcased first-rate mainstream fiction is evident from this superlative anthology of stories by Bernard Malamud, Norman Mailer, Jack Kerouac, Andre Dubus, Jorge Luis Borges, Thomas McGuane, John Cheever, James Baldwin, Isaac Bashevis Singer and others. Sex, when it occurs here, is often an arena of hazard or negotiation, as in Paul Theroux's prickly tale of a wealthy young Bostonian out for erotic adventure in Africa; or T. Coraghessan Boyle's ultimate satire of safe sex featuring an obsessive magazine editor who insists that her lover wear a full-body condom. Another human constant, death, pervades John Updike's account of smug tourists visiting an Egyptian necropolis and Vladimir Nabokov's witty tale of a seduction on a train. Women, though a decided minority, are represented by Joyce Carol Oates's withering portrait of American academics transplanted to Canada amid the 1960s counterculture; Nadine Gordimer's powerful tale of an Afrikaner farmer's disposal of the corpse of a black man; Laurie Colwin's disarmingly direct narrative of an adulterer; and pieces by Shirley Jackson, Bharati Mukherjee and Ursula LeGuin. Playboy fiction editor Turner has pulled together a smart anthology that constantly entertains and provokes. (Jan.)