cover image NEW STORIES FROM THE SOUTH: The Year's Best, 2001


Shannon Ravenel, Editor, Lee Smith, Preface by , preface by Lee Smith. Algonquin $14.95 (346p) ISBN 978-1-56512-311-3

There are no weak links in this collection of 20 stories, though with the exceptions of John Barth and Madison Smartt Bell, the series' 16th volume lacks household names. Editor Ravenel has done her usual superb job of finding a variety of stories that encompass virtually all aspects of Southern life. "The Paperhanger" by William Gay, a frequent contributor, involves a girl who mysteriously vanishes, and her parents' subsequent ruin. The paperhanger of the title reveals himself to be "one sick puppy," as one of the locals observes, and the ending of this tale is not for the faint of heart. In "Jolie-Gray" by Ingrid Hill (a talented writer still waiting for her big break), what appears to be a leisurely, how-I-spent–my-summer vacation story suddenly turns sinister when 15-year-old Jolie-Gray is turned out onto the streets of New Orleans by a deceitful relative and left to fend for herself. Jane Shippen in "I Am Not Like Nuñez" draws a frightening portrait of another 15-year-old, Charlotte Kay, known as Sharky, who with her pill-popping stripper mother and delinquent young brother, Nuñez, is on a fast track to trouble and oblivion. The most humorous story is "In Between Things" by Marshall Boswell, in which a couple are only happy dating when they are officially no longer a couple. Barth's story "The Rest of Your Life," more accessible than most of his writing, hinges on a computer suddenly changing the current date to August 27, 1956, and all the speculations, memories and possibilities inherent in such a situation. This is a fine showcase for the South's many talented writers. (Sept. 14)