cover image New Stories from the South: The Year's Best, 1991

New Stories from the South: The Year's Best, 1991

Shannon Ravenel, Author Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill $9.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-945575-82-5

A number of accomplished Southern writers lend their often garrulous voices to the sixth annual collection of Ravenel's favorite stories. Eccentricity is a common theme here: obsessed with a Tennessee kinsman who has vanished, Peter Taylor's narrator discovers that odd-looking Cousin Aubrey has reinvented himself in the image of the narrator's exalted maternal grandfather, a U.S. senator; Larry Brown's obnoxious, drunken rube loses his wife to a man with a larger penis; sisters created by Barbara Hudson are awakened by their mother in the middle of the night to clean the house; and, searching for a sense of place in America, Robert Olen Butler's Vietnam refugee buys one of the shoes that John Lennon was wearing when he was murdered. For characters in two of the most satisfying pieces, serious illness strips away pretensions: without sentimentality, Mark Richard conjures a children's hospital ward where wise young patients abandoned by their families at Christmas keep despair at bay by lobbying to watch Hitchcock's The Birds on television; and Lee Smith's hero refuses to regret that he gave up a orderly life and average marriage for the adulterous love of a waitress who is now dying. (Oct.)