New Stories from the South: The Year's Best 1989

Shannon Ravenel, Editor Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill $9.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-945575-27-6

A 10-year-old boy digs his way through the Mississippi Delta scavenging for signs of death; a man plays good Samaritan to an unappealing shrew who is drunk with poverty and despair; mourning her fiance, a woman beats up his best friend once a month in her big empty closet; a zonked-out addict who sells sex and blood eagerly skims a newspaper for a coupon that ups the price of plasma from $8 to $10; an obese, garrulous, old woman who hears God calling to her on television, eggs on her henpecked, squirrelly husband to commit murder. A note of pathos offsets the bizarre and elegiac elements in a collection that is a sure antidote to the numbing posturing that plagues some current short fiction. Ravenel's fourth volume in her annual regional omnibus (seven of the 15 stories were anthologized previously) is a repository of quirky souls who raise their twangs and drawls in an explosive symphony. The South is perhaps the principal character here, an omnipresent, deliciously eccentric, beguiling spirit. Contributors include Bobbie Ann Mason, Rick Bass, Lewis Nordan and Mary Ward Brown. (Sept.)