The 100 Books Project: The Best American Short Stories 2008.

“‘Of course, Lyndsey, of course.’ He smiled, swirling the red wine in his glass. ‘We often rely on others to make our most important decisions. There’s no reason to be ashamed of this.'” (Christine Sneed, “Quality of Life”)

“The Best American Short Stories 2008” edited by Salman Rushdie and Heidi Pitlor

I’ve always been a big fan of The Best American Short Story series ever since it was required reading for my creative writing classes back in college. Here, in one volume, are a collection of the stories considered to be some of the best, chosen carefully by someone who I usually already know and respect as a writer. Here is a collection of what has been considered poignant and important or notable writing in any given year, in the opinion of any given figure already in the literary world. It’s great for entertainment, but also a good perspective on what editors are looking for and what writers, in general, are writing about.

As with any collection of such things, the 2008 volume of The Best American Short Stories, this time around edited by Salman Rushdie, has some big hits and a few misses that landed (for me) into mediocrity, but the good ones certainly outshine any misgivings had toward those not enjoyed nearly as much. I found it interesting that so many of the stories touched on discordant relationships, a theme I’ve been told to avoid as much as possible, but perhaps that’s merely because that’s a topic where, in order for it to be good, it has to be really good. Highlights for me in this collection had a lot to do with children and Communism, overall. Katie Chase has a fascinating piece, “Man and Wife,” that took something very ordinary and turned it on its ear so smoothly that you won’t even blink, about arranged marriages and the loss of childhood. Alice Munroe has a chilling piece entitled “Child’s Play,” which seems to turn that innocence itself on its ear. Rebecca Makkai has produced a wonderful story in “The Worst You Ever Feel,” about immigrants, art, and the Iron Curtain, and anyone who knows me would know I’d have loved Miroslav Penkov’s “Buying Lenin,” the tale of a Capitalist pig young man and his Communist sucker grandfather.

The volume holds sixteen more stories other than the four I’ve mentioned, all of them good, most of them wonderful. I’ve been so focused on novels lately that I haven’t spared much time for short stories, so these volumes are fantastic to pick up, read through, and remind yourself of what makes a short story such an effective form.

Books Read: 46 out of 100.

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