cover image The Pushcart Prize 2007 XXXI

The Pushcart Prize 2007 XXXI

, and others. . Pushcart, $35 (549pp) ISBN 978-1-888889-44-4

A fictional stranger asks a woman to carry a package onto an airplane; a real '70s housewife sublimates her ambitions through the preparation of extravagant French cuisine; a poet writes of "Hearing News from the Temple Mount in Salt Lake City": this year's gathering of small-press fiction, essays and poetry from venerable stocktaker Henderson is uneven, if sporadically edgy. Standouts center on identity and include Dina Ben-Lev's memory of anti-Semitic pig farmers in Quebec; Mary Karr's confession of her unlikely conversion to Catholicism; and Katherine Karlin's story about a lesbian oil worker trying to be one of the boys in a Delaware Valley refinery. Also noteworthy are Benjamin Percy's short story about smalltown boys who join the reserves and end up in Iraq—with their fathers; Karen E. Bender's tale about a routine TriBeCa sublet that goes awry after September 11; Jonathan Carroll's story about how a lawyer's obsession with scaffolding leads to a Kafkaesque metamorphosis; and Philip Levine's tribute to the late poet Thom Gunn, a narrative dominated by the attention-grabbing John Berryman. Some pieces are unsatisfying (such as David James Duncan's rant on fundamentalism), but this sampler whets the appetite for nonmainstream publications and perspectives. (Dec.)