cover image The Pushcart Prize

The Pushcart Prize

. Pushcart Press, $29.5 (606pp) ISBN 978-1-888889-09-3

This generous collection of 69 pieces gathers quality writing from small presses and literary journals. Several of the best stories, poems and essays focus on child-parent relationships. Francine Prose's essay, ""The Old Morgue,"" lovingly recalls a fascinating, if occasionally ghoulish, childhood spent in the company of her father, a pathologist. In Meg Wolitzer's short story, ""Tea at the House,"" the daughter of a psychiatrist at an asylum struggles to distinguish between madness and normal adolescent confusion. Jeffrey Eugenides poignantly captures the natural erosion of aging in ""Timeshare,"" examining a grown son's tentative bond with his father, a haplessly optimistic entrepreneur. Stuart Dybek's story, ""Blowing Shades,"" finds sensual, image-driven grace in a mother's not-quite-secret affair with a younger man. Kimiko Hahn's gorgeous and compelling poem, ""Sewing Without Mother: A Zuihitsu,"" considers loss and the nature of grieving. On a different tack, Patricia Hampl's ""The Bill Collector's Vacation"" unveils a world of complexity in the bland microcosm of two strangers waiting for their credit union to open one morning. Hemingway's classic short story ""In Another Country"" is the subject of Andre Dubus's essay, in which he chronicles his 30-year relationship with that particular story and pays eloquent tribute to the transformative power of literature. Philip Levine's ""Two Journeys"" could be a companion piece, with its incisive and very personal exploration of what it means to be a writer. Martin Espada's poem, ""Thanksgiving,"" brings fresh, sardonic perspective to bear on American tradition. There are also poems of note by Marilyn Hacker, William Matthews, Laura Kasischke, Pattiann Rogers and Carol Muske. In his introduction, Henderson describes the anthology as ""our annual celebration."" There is indeed much to celebrate here, not the least of which is the vitality and creativity displayed by smaller presses nationwide. (Nov.)