cover image The Pushcart Prize

The Pushcart Prize

. Pushcart Press, $29.5 (621pp) ISBN 978-1-888889-22-2

The Pushcart Prize turns 25 this year and marks its quarter-century with a strong, serious-minded selection of 74 works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Many of the personal essays focus on writing. Bret Lott, in ""Toward Humility,"" gives a rather sentimental, behind-the-scenes account of having a novel chosen by Oprah Winfrey (whom Lott calls ""the Force""). A more intellectually rigorous essay by Patricia Hampl, ""Other People's Secrets,"" explores the uneasy ethics by which the writer justifies ""telling secrets and getting away with it."" A droll poem by John Ashbery, ""Your Name Here,"" is like a cubist collage of Paris as an ant farm. Salvatore Scibona's short story, ""Prairie,"" is a quiet but devastating portrait of solitude and willed muteness on the Manitoba frontier of the 1880s. Marcia, the protagonist of Joan Silber's ""Commendable,"" is another kind of pioneerDa woman who enrolled in the sexual revolution as a topless dancer, and in middle age comes back to the region she grew up in. Bay Anapol's ""The Man with Paper Eyes"" is a romance set in the special section of the California prison system devoted to transsexual prisoners, but transcends the merely gothic by being genuinely heartfelt. Few of the entries test boundaries like Anapol's story, and the humor quotient is down in this year's volume, but the poetry selections are excellent. The series continues to stand as a valuable resource for writers and readers alike, richly engaging the stray surfer. With its target readership alerted by advertising in 40 literary journals, it should sell respectably and, given that this is an anniversary anthology, even more. (Nov.)