cover image Scribners Best of the Fiction Workshops 1997

Scribners Best of the Fiction Workshops 1997

Alice Hoffman. Touchstone Books, $25.95 (404pp) ISBN 978-0-684-83314-9

While it is often argued that real writers are born, not taught, this collection of stories chosen from 100 workshops goes far to disprove that shibboleth. Though the subject matter does tend to the contemporary American domestic theme, there are 22 different treatments, 22 distinctive styles. Few writers have opted for traditional integrated plots, and this can be tricky since experimentation requires a great deal of authorial conviction to succeed. In some works here, the reader isn't quite sure what the writer has in mind--save for the accumulation of words. Many others, however, have some outstanding feature--the fine prose of Julie Rold's ""Bloodlines"" and Jon Billman's ""Kerr's Fault,"" the subtle characterization of Caroline Cheng's ""Consolation"" and George Rogers's ""Living Near Canada."" Some truly fine stories would stand out in any collection. Camie Kim's ""Cartography"" portrays a child of the 1960s who is now trying to understand her own inscrutable daughter. Andrew Foster Altschul's ""The One Life"" describes the cozily circumscribed nightmare of heroin addiction so perfectly that readers may feel inclined to check their arms for tracks. The first in a projected annual series, this collection offers struggling writers inspiration and discouraged readers hope. (Feb.)