cover image The Pushcart Prize XXIV: Best of the Small Presses

The Pushcart Prize XXIV: Best of the Small Presses

. W. W. Norton & Company, $29.5 (585pp) ISBN 978-1-888889-19-2

The 24th annual anthology honors those essays, short stories and poems nominated by the small magazines in which they have been published. In this year's collection of winners, there are notable essays from Gabriel Garc a M rquez, Ann Hood, Alice Mattison and Paula's Fox's memoir is characteristically unsentimental but deeply affecting; Elizabeth Sifton's is rich with insight and cultural history. Lesser-known writers also shine. ""Neon Effects,"" a memoir by Emily Hiestand, recounts her sudden desire to put blue neon tubing under the carriage of her car, low-rider/U.F.O.-style. It's a little gem of eccentric vision, with fun quirks like a footnote on the phrase ""no problem."" ""Odd Collections"" by Alexander Theroux details the obsessions of collectors, from the man in Pittsburgh who hoards moist towelettes to the Asian prostitutes who ""collect fluff from the navels of their clients."" Stacy Richter's stellar, hilarious fiction, ""The First Men,"" is the rant of a high school teacher, Miss Roberts, who owes money to a drug-dealing student. When she runs into her drug dealer's Neanderthal but undeniably cute enforcer at the mall, her survival instinct fails her. The protagonist of the novella ""The Wedding Jester,"" by Steve Stern, is a washed-up writer tired of his work retelling Jewish folktales, who accompanies his mother to a wedding in the Catskills where the bride is possessed by a dybbuk with a dirty mouth. Other short fiction comes from the pens of Leonard Michaels, Robert Coover, Frederick Busch, Robert Boswell, Rick Moody, Pam Houston and Charles Baxter. The poems represent a range of styles and schools, with entries by well-known poets such as Robert Creeley and Jane Cooper and less familiar voices. Ray Gonzalez's poem ""The Poor Angel"" is a standout, surrealist liturgy with overtones of Artaud, and Bob Hickok's ""Building a Painting a Home"" is a wistful wonder of domestic meditation. Overall, it's a fascinating compilation, reflecting the year's varied bounty of literary feats, as selected by an equally varied pool of editors and writers in the field. (Oct.)