cover image The Granta Book of the American Short Story

The Granta Book of the American Short Story

Richard Ford. Penguin Books, $27.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-670-84527-9

Academic anthologies, no matter how massive, tend to paint literature with a broad and representative brush. ``Best-of'' collections may dabble exclusively and exhaustively in a particular decade or school. Happily, Granta 's compendium of recent stories by American writers is neither. Culled from work published since 1944--the year Ford ( Rock Springs ) was born--the more than 40 stories in this 700-plus-page volume are an idiosyncratic array with few common threads connecting them. Apart from the 1944 cutoff date, Ford's only criteria, stated in his quirky, thoughtful introduction, are that the entries be ``ones I like--stories that have altered my appreciation of what a short story might surprisingly contain or be about; stories that by their brilliance have seemed to sanction the entire endeavor of being a writer.'' A story can be almost anything in his book, and his notion of an American ``allows an American to be anyone who persuasively claims to be one.'' Ford's liberal aesthetic sweeps us from (to name a very few) the Bowleses, Wallace Stegner and Grace Paley through the pivotal work of Donald Barthelme, William Gass and Robert Coover, to that of Jamaica Kincaid, Raymond Carver and Richard Bausch. This is hardly another case of rounding up the usual suspects; there are many surprises in the lineup--delightful ones. (Oct.)