cover image New Stories from the South 1995: The Year's Best

New Stories from the South 1995: The Year's Best

Shannon Ravenel, Editor Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill $10.95 (280p) ISBN 978-1-56512-123-2

The Southern imagination, Flannery O'Connor contended, was shaped by ``a strong devotion to the Bible, which has kept our mind attached to the concrete and the living symbol.'' Of Ravenel's 17 picks, only Barry Hannah's ``Drummer Down'' and Robert Olen Butler's spooky, tabloid-inspired ``Boy Born With Tattoo of Elvis'' echo O'Connor's grotesque, apocalyptic legacy. Rather, another branch of the family tree dominates--one tracing roots to Eudora Welty and the lyricism, not mayhem, of the King James Bible. In the best of these tales, Dale Ray Phillips's ``Everything Quiet Like Church,'' a rattled expectant father plays horseshoes with a one-eyed midwife as he struggles to understand his tumultuous marriage. A few old burs still nettle Dixie gentility: the big-hearted working-class protagonist of Tim Gautreaux's ``The Bug Man'' discovers the pitfalls of crossing class lines when his matchmaking backfires; Scott Gould's ``Bases'' and MMM Hayes's showy ``Fixing Lu'' grapple with racism; Caroline A. Langston's fine ``In the Distance'' probes the gulf between cultures that troubles a Mississippi boy home from his Northern college. In those stories that seem distinctly Southern (not all do), it's mostly voice, a way of talking, rather than a way of looking at life, that makes it so--and that makes this anthology more a gathering of Southern accents than of Southern imaginations. (Sept.)