cover image The Pushcart Prize

The Pushcart Prize

. Pushcart Press, $28 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-916366-58-2

Bearing many gifts, this latest edition of the celebrated annual small-press anthology brims with writing that challenges the mind and enlarges one's vision. A few contributors experiment with form. Joyce Carol Oates's ``Party,'' one huge paragraph long, turns on the contrast between the chatty, cultured, academic atmosphere and the fate of a female voice instructor dying of cancer; Edward Hoagland's ``Learning to Eat Soup'' is an olio of fragmentary sketches (on his father's death, on eating a porcupine, etc.), aphorisms and thumbnail portraits of literary lions. Other stories mirror social-political pressures or tackle topical issues. In Charles Baxter's ``Westland,'' an English-born resident of Detroit fires a gun at a nuclear reactor. A sixth-grade teacher fondles his students sexually in Michael Martone's scary, all-too-real ``The Safety Patrol.'' Standouts among the essays include Diane Johnson's analysis of the lost art of plotting in fiction, and Julian Barnes's reminiscence of chess-playing Arthur Koestler at 77. Poetry entries include Mark Doty's piercing portrayal of a woman going mad, and Jim Moore's autobiographical meld of Vietnam War resistance and Zen. (Oct.)