Cover image for The Best American short stories, 1999 : selected from U.S. and Canadian magazines
The Best American short stories, 1999 : selected from U.S. and Canadian magazines
Tan, Amy.
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1999.
Physical Description:
xxviii, 410 pages ; 21 cm
The Hermit's Story / Rick Bass -- The Sun, the moon, the stars / Junot Díaz -- Mrs. Dutta writes a letter / Chitra Divakaruni -- Kansas / Stephen Dobyns -- The tumblers / Nathan Englander -- The piano tuner / Tim Gautreaux -- The uncharted heart / Melissa Hardy -- The 5:22 / George Harrar -- Islands / A. Hemon -- The best girlfriend you never had / Pam Houston -- In the kindergarten / Ha Jin -- Marry the one who gets there first / Heidi Julavits -- Live life king-sized / Hester Kaplan -- Africans / Sheilia Kohler -- Interpreter of maladies / Jhumpa Lahiri -- Real estate / Lorrie Moore -- Save the reaper / Alice Munro -- The bunchgrass edge of the world / Annie Proulx -- The robbers of Karnataka / James Spencer -- The good shopkeeper / Samrat Upadhyay -- The rest of her life / Steve Yarbrough.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS648.S5 B4 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PS648.S5 B4 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PS648.S5 B4 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
PS648.S5 B4 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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In choosing this year's best American short stories, guest editor Amy Tan found herself drawn to fiction that satisfied her appetite for the magic and mystery she once loved as a child, when she was addicted to fairy tales. The result is a vibrant collection in which truth and fantasy coexist in new works by writers such as Rick Bass, Annie Proulx, Lorrie Moore, and Pam Houston, as well as in startlingly accomplished stories by new writers. The Best American Short Stories is the only volume that annually offers the finest works chosen by a distinguished best-selling author.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Following previous guest editors, Tan explains her selections by discussing literary taste, which she contends is the result of our "emotional obsessions" and what we "want to know" about the world, things which differ vastly among us, and which consequently vitiate the claims of would-be expert arbiters. Her 21 selections (made "blindly") include familiar and unfamiliar writers, and, most impressively, come from 17 different magazines. There are possible worlds beneath worlds here, or the same world suddenly seen quite differently. In Rick Bass' "The Hermit's Story," a dog trainer detours, in a storm, through a frozen lake's ice cavity, whose screening of the above world's clarity lingers in her imagination as a metaphor for another way of sensing--her dog's way, perhaps. In Hester Kaplan's "Live Life King-Sized," the proprietor of an island resort eventually embraces one guest's death and dying over the insular, orchestrated pleasantness he usually furnishes his guests. There are other remarkable stories in this collection that, once again, is an extraordinary starting point for anyone who wants to know what is happening in short fiction today. --James O'Laughlin

Publisher's Weekly Review

Despite increasing competition, this annual collection remains the place to find the most compelling short fiction published in the U.S. and Canada. Guest editor Tan comments that many of her 21 choices carry "an exotic flavor.... Either the narrators were ethnic or the settings outside America." Especially noteworthy are several stories with South Asian locations or characters. In Jhumpa Lahiri's "Interpreter of Maladies" an Indian tour guide finds himself at first puzzled by an Indian-American family, and later drawn to its frustrated mother and wife. James Spencer's "The Robbers of Karnataka" follows Americans who visit South India seeking an enlightened swami, and encounter armed bandits instead. Other strong entries come from such stellar names as Alice Munro ("Save the Reaper"), Rick Bass ("The Hermit's Story") and Lorrie Moore ("Real Estate"). But much exciting work here emanates from young writers. The evocative "The Sun, the Moon, the Stars," by Junot D¡az, follows a troubled New York City Latino couple to Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, where "the entire history of late-20th-century automobiles swarm[s] across every flat stretch of ground, a cosmology of battered cars, battered motorcycles, battered trucks, and battered buses... " Nathan Englander combines Yiddish folktale and Nazi-era horror in "The Tumblers," as a group of Hasids performs a grotesque acrobatic act in the heart of Berlin. Hester Kaplan's "Live Life King-Sized" also merges comedy with mortality: the owner of a Caribbean resort must accommodate a guest who asks that he be allowed to die on the island. The selection draws on 17 journals, from the New Yorker to the Clackamas Literary Review; and many of the stories have published in such collections of the authors' work as For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, Birds of America and Welding with Children. Such a high caliber of literary excellence speaks well for the state of short fiction. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In her choices for this edition of an enduring series, Tan discloses a bias for certain kinds of storytelling: a strong narrative voice, a thought or perception that signals a change for the protagonist, and elements of fairy tales and the grotesque. The fantistical is certainly in evidence. In Nathan Englander's "The Tumblers," the residents of a mythical Jewish village cannot escape the effects of the Holocaust. Readers enter the Twilight Zone in George Harrar's "The 5:22," as a man's daily routine skews into the surreal. And Annie Proulx's "The Bunchgrass End of the World" features a talking tractor. Also evident is the increasing diversity of our culture, as a significant proportion of the stories feature non-Anglo characters and/or authors. Recommended for academic and public libraries.ÄChristine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Idaho Lib., Moscow (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



IntroductionForty years ago, just before I turned seven, my father started reading to me from a volume of 365 stories with an equal number of pages. The stories were supposed to be read in sequence, a tale a day, beginning with a sledding caper on a snowy January first. They concerned the ongoing activities of children who lived in lovely two- story homes on a block lined with trees whose changing leaves reflected the seasons. They each had a father and a mother as well as two sets of grandparents, and these older folk conveyed simple truths while taking cookies from a hot oven or fish from a cold stream. Each day the children had small adventures with baby animals, balloons, or bicycles. They enjoyed nice surprises, got into small troubles, and had fun problems that they could solve. They made thingamajigs out of mud and stone and paint, which wound up being the prettiest ashtray Mommy and Daddy had ever received. Within each of those five-hundred- word stories, the children learned a valuable lifelong lesson, which they promised never to forget. By the middle of the book, I had learned to read well enough to finish a book in one day. And being impatient to learn what happened to the children in the rest of the year, I polished off the remaining stories in one sitting. On the last day of the year, the children went sledding again, completing the happy circle. Thus, I discovered that those children, between January first and December thirty-first, had not changed much. I was glad, for that was the same year I accumulated many worries, which I numbered on my fingers. One was for the new home we had moved to, the fifth of more than a dozen I would occupy during my childhood. Two was for the dead rat crushed in a trap, which my father showed me, believing that this would assure me that the rat was no longer lurking in my bedroom. Three was my playmate, whom I saw lying in a coffin while my mother whispered, "This what happen when you don't listen to Mother." Four was for the operation I had, which made me think I had not listened to my mother. Five was for the ghost of my playmate who wanted me to come live with her. Six was for my mother telling me that when she was my age her mother had died, and the same sad fate might happen to me if I didn't appreciate her more. Eventually, I ran out of fingers. That year, I believed that if I could make sense of my worries, I could make them stop. And when I couldn't, I would walk to the library. I went there often. I would choose my own books. And I would read and read, a story a day. That girl from forty years ago has served as your guest editor for The Best American Short Stories 1999. I felt I should tell you about my earliest literary influences, because I'm aware that if you scan the table of contents, you might suspect that I have been reactionary in my choices. You may wonder if they are a vote against homogeneity, a vote for diversity in preordered proportions. This Excerpted from The Best American Short Stories 1999 All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

ReadAmy Tan
The Hermit's StoryRick Bass
ReadRick Bass
The Sun, the Moon, the StarsJunot Diaz
ReadJunot Diaz Mrs. Dutta
Writes a LetterChitra Divakaruni
ReadChitra Divakaruni Kansas and Stephen Dobyns
ReadStephen Dobyns
The 5:22George Harrar
ReadGeorge Harrar
The Best Girlfriend You Never HadPam Houston
ReadPam Houston
AfricansSheila Kohler
ReadSheila Kohler
Interpreter of MaladiesJhumpa Lahiri
ReadJhumpa Lahiri