cover image The Pushcart Prize XXI

The Pushcart Prize XXI

. W. W. Norton & Company, $29.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-916366-96-4

Czeslaw Milosz, Bobbie Ann Mason, Andre Dubus and Seamus Heaney are among the more prominent of the 60-plus writers represented in this generous and stimulatingly eclectic selection of fiction, poetry and essays--the biggest anthology in the 21-year history of the Pushcart Press. Of particular note are probing essays about the link between faith and the writer's imagination (Dubus's ""Love in the Morning""), a law professor's debilitation from a stroke (George Packer's ""Disorder and Early Sorrow"") and the dispiriting racial Balkanization of New York (Michael Stephens's ""The Last White Man in Brooklyn""). Admirable, too, are Alan Shapiro's ""Fanatics,"" in which the author describes his falling-out with a friend from childhood, an ardent convert to Hasidic Judaism, and Michael Kaniecki's mordant, unsettling essay on the impact the Holocaust had--and continues to have--on his Polish-American family (""Love Song for the SS""). Although the fiction is less wide-ranging, working mostly in the realist epiphanic mode, much of it is first-rate. Erin McGraw's ""Daily Affirmations"" plays out the bleak comedy of a self-help writer clashing with her parents at Thanksgiving. Helen Schulman's ""The Revisionist"" affectingly chronicles the mental unraveling of a Manhattan businessman. In Ranbir Sidhu's ""Neanderthal Tongues,"" the corpse of an anthropologist meditates upon warring factions in Ethiopia and his distance from his own roots in India. The poetry is diverse, too; of particular note are the late James Merrill's ""Christmas Tree,"" a delightful jeu d'esprit, and Loretta Collins's coolly observant ""Fetish."" Henderson's anthology is a welcome annual reminder of the vigor and breadth of the smaller presses. (Nov.)