Cover image for The Scribner anthology of contemporary short fiction : fifty North American stories since 1970
The Scribner anthology of contemporary short fiction : fifty North American stories since 1970
Williford, Lex, 1954-
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster, [1999]

Physical Description:
671 pages ; 24 cm
This is what it means to say Phoenix, Arizona / Sherman Alexie -- Death by landscape / Margaret Atwood -- Raymond's run / Toni Cade Bambara -- Sarah Cole : a type of love story / Russell Banks -- Click / John Barth -- The school / Donald Barthelme -- Wild horses / Rick Bass -- The man who knew Belle Starr / Richard Bausch -- Gryphon / Charles Baxter -- Customs of the country / Madison Smartt Bell -- Silver water / Amy Bloom -- Tall tales from the Mekong Delta / Kate Braverman -- A good scent from a strange mountain / Robert Olen Butler -- The year of getting to know us / Ethan Canin -- Errand / Raymond Carver -- Woman Hollering Creek / Sandra Cisneros -- White angel / Michael Cunningham -- Fiesta 1980 / Junot Diaz -- Pet milk / Stuart Dybek -- The prophet from Jupiter / Tony Earley -- Saint Marie / Louise Erdrich -- Rock Springs / Richard Ford -- The mail lady / David Gates -- Same place, same things / Tim Gautreaux -- Nebraska / Ron Hansen -- In the cemetery where Al Jolson is buried / Amy Hempel -- Emergency / Denis Johnson -- Marie / Edward P. Jones -- Cold snap / Thom Jones -- Doe season / David Michael Kaplan -- Patriotic / Janet Kauffman -- Girl / Jamaica Kincaid -- Territory / David Leavitt -- The kind of light that shines on Texas / Reginald McKnight -- You're ugly, too / Lorrie Moore -- The management of grief / Bharati Mukherjee -- Meneseteung / Alice Munro -- Ghost girls / Joyce Carol Oates -- The things they carried / Tim O'Brien -- The shawl / Cynthia Ozick -- Brokeback Mountain / Annie Proulx -- Strays / Mark Richard -- Intensive care / Lee Smith -- The way we live now / Susan Sontag -- Two kinds / Amy Tan -- First, body / Melanie Rae Thon -- Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog / Stephanie Vaughn -- Nineteen fifty-five / Alice Walker -- Fever / John Edgar Wideman -- Taking care / Joy Williams.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
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PS648.S5 S38 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Selected from a survey of more than 200 English professors, award-winning short-story writers, novelists, and fiction workshop directors, a remarkable collection of North American literature written since 1970.Sherman Alexie • Margaret Atwood • Toni Cade Bambara • Russell Banks • John Barth • Donald Barthelme • Rick Bass • Richard Bausch • Charles Baxter • Madison Smartt Bell • Amy Bloom • Kate Braverman • Robert Olen Butler • Ethan Canin • Raymond Carver • Sandra Cisneros • Michael Cunningham • Junot Diaz • Stuart Dybek • Tony Earley • Louise Erdrich • Richard Ford • David Gates • Tim Gautreaux • Ron Hansen • Amy Hempel • Denis Johnson • Edward P. Jones • Thom Jones • David Michael Kaplan • Janet Kaufman • Jamaica Kincaid • David Leavitt • Reginald McKnight • Lorrie Moore • Bharati Mukherjee • Alice Munro • Joyce Carol Oates • Tim O'Brien • Cynthia Ozick • Annie Proulx • Mark Richard • Lee Smith • Susan Sontag • Amy Tan • Melanie Rae Thon • Stephanie Vaughn • Alice Walker • John Edgar Wideman • Joy Williams

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Taking pains to "democratize the process of story selection," the editors have tried to create a resource for fiction writing programs: stories teachers of fiction-writing will be most interested in using. The result is an impressively wide-ranging collection of contemporary stories, many of which have previously appeared in various annual best-of anthologies, and whose authors, to anyone who's been exercising an interest in contemporary literary fiction, will mostly be familiar: Donald Barthelme, Raymond Carver, Louise Erdrich, Jamaica Kincaid, and John Edgar Wideman. There are some less well known but also highly accomplished contributions, such as Michael Cunningham's "White Angel" and David Michael Kaplan's "Doe Season." In the introduction, Rosellen Brown makes a brief, impassioned case for the work fiction-writing classes and workshops can make possible, in part through attention to the achievements of stories such as the ones here; and short biographical paragraphs introduce each of the writers and list some of their publications, into which most aspiring fiction writers will want to delve more deeply. But this book gives them some excellent starting points. --James O'Laughlin



Foreword In Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular (Houghton Mifflin, 1987), Rust Hills, former Esquire editor, writes of the "growing role in all the processes of contemporary literature of the colleges and universities of America": If one but stands back a bit and looks, one sees that it is no longer the book publishers and magazines, but rather the colleges and universities, that support the entire structure of the American literary establishment -- and, moreover, essentially determine the nature and shape of that structure. (184). The current listings in the ninth Associated Writing Programs Official Guide to Writing Programs confirm this observation: There are now almost eight hundred English departments across North America which offer undergraduate fiction writing minors and majors, half of these programs including curricula for the study of fiction writing at the graduate level, and these numbers continue to grow. Justifiably, critics balk at the "elitist" idea of any literary establishment, academic or otherwise. Others argue that the quantitative rise of academic writing programs over the last three decades has led to a corresponding qualitative decline in short fiction, generations of student writers cranking out a kind of uniform workshop "MacStory" on an assembly line of increasing literary mediocrity. Our experience has been otherwise. Mentored by teaching writers in writing programs, then becoming teaching writers in writing programs ourselves, we've come to recognize that these programs feed gifted writers who might not otherwise be fed. Just as important, we've come to believe that teaching writers are perhaps one of the most qualified sources of opinion about the remarkable diversity of the contemporary short story form. After all, other than writing programs students, editors, the comparatively few readers who buy "literary" short fiction hardback and trade paperback titles and the even smaller group of writers who make their living writing fiction, they are perhaps the most widely and deeply read audience of the form -- and often its principle practitioners. The original premise of The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Fiction was that many teaching writers across the country -- one of the largest pools of people qualified to make such selections -- have historically had little or no say about the selections of stories in the contemporary anthologies they read and use to teach writing. Wanting as much as possible to democratize the process of story selection , we created a database of over 200 teaching writers from the Eighth Edition of the Associated Writing Programs Guide to Writing Programsduring the Fall of 1997. Our extensive four-page survey asked writers and writing teachers to identify the five examples of contemporary short fiction published since 1970 they most often returned to as readers, writers and teachers, identifying for us their level of satisfaction with the current offerings of short fiction anthologies on the market. To our surprise, we received about fifty responses, a greater number than we expected, many of the respondents writing at great length not only about the stories they most admire, teach and return to but also about the principal reasons they bring these stories to their classes again and again, their discussions covering everything from thematic to technical concerns. Surprisingly, sixty percent of the respondents write that they are dissatisfied with the current offerings of contemporary short story anthologies for their own reading and for their contemporary literature and writing classes. Some wrote that the most representative stories are never in one volume and that many stories go to waste because teachers use so few. Others complained that too many of the same main stream stories are selected by the same main stream authors, that too few highlight the contemporary and that too many lack an aesthetically diverse mix of traditional stories and experimental stories that push the boundaries of the short story form. Some respondents also noted that current anthologies either do not have enough gender, cultural, ethnic or racial diversity, or their selections are too tokenized, or that many anthologies emphasize theme over fiction writing technique. And a large number of our respondents write that short fiction anthologies are often either too general in focus or too long in their time spans or too specific in their focus or too short in their time spans. Many, too, write that these anthologies are often too expensive or that the less expensive annuals (The Pushcart Prizes, The Best American Stories, and The O. Henry Awards) are often wildly uneven from year to year. The results of our survey seem to indicate that teachers are always looking for something new, the perfect anthology, yet the current offerings satisfy no one. As the editors of this anthology, we've tried as much as possible to select stories based upon the comments and results of our surveys, using our own very different but complementary aesthetics. And we've included all but a few of the stories which received the most nominations. The most nominated story in our survey was Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," included here. The other most nominated stories were (in this approximate ranking): Cynthia Ozick's "The Shawl," Raymond Carver's "Cathedral," Richard Ford's "Rock Springs," Charles Baxter's "Gryphon," Denis Johnson's "Emergency" and Lorrie Moore's "You're Ugly, Too." All of these but one are represented in this anthology. (Because the nominations for Carver's work were spread fairly evenly over many of his stories and because several respondents suggested we choose a less widely anthologized story than "Cathedral," we selected Carver's "Errand," one of his last stories -- based upon the last hours of Anton Chechov's life -- since it represents both the work of an author at the peak of his creative powers and the irony of writers whose lives are cut short so young.) Even when Scribner agreed to publish fifty stories, the largest number of contemporary short stories in one volume, our other selections were more difficult than we expected because the stories that followed these represented nearly equivalent rankings of tremendous number and variety. As much as possible, we've chosen stories representative of diverse aesthetics, voices and geographies, including contemporary "classics" as well as new discoveries and lesser-know stories and writers. And, yes, we've left out a few of everyone's favorites. While there's always the danger that in trying to please everyone we've pleased no one, we believe that this anthology represents the largest, most comprehensive selection of contemporary North American short fiction published in one volume. That Scribner -- perhaps the most respected publisher of fiction since the last renaissance of the short story in the 1920s -- should publish this anthology is, we hope, further evidence of our belief. We appreciate any suggestions about ways we might improve this anthology in future editions and any commentary and story suggestions by writers and teaching writers wishing to participate in future surveys.   -- Lex Williford & Michael Martone Copyright (c) 1999 Lex Williford & Michael Martone. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

ForewordLex Williford and Michael Martone
IntroductionRosellen Brown
This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, ArizonaAlexie and Sherman
Death by LandscapeAtwood and Margaret
Cade Raymond's Run BanksBambara and Toni
Sarah Cole: A Type of Love StoryRussell
ClickBarth and John
The SchoolBarthelme and Donald
Wild HorsesBass and Rick
The Man Who Knew Belle StarrBausch and Richard
GryphonBaxter and Charles
Customs of the CountryBell and Madison Smartt
WaterBloom and Amy silver
Tall Tales from the Mekong DeltaBraverman and Kate
A Good Scent from a Strange MountainButler and Robert Olen
The Year of Getting to Know Us CarverCanin and Ethan
Woman Hollering CreekCisneros and Sandra
White AngeCunningham and Michael
Fiesta 1980ldiaz and Junot
Pet MilkDybek and Stuart
The Prophet from JupiterEarley and Tony
Saint MarieErdrich and Louise
Rock SpringsFord and Richard
The Mail LadyGates and David
Same Place, Same ThingsGautreaux and Tim
NebraskaHanson and Ron
In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is BuriedHempel and Amy
EmergencyJohnson and Denis
P.MarieJone and Edward
Cold SnapJones and Thom
Doe SeasonKaplan and David Michael
PatrioticKauffman and Janet
GirlKincaid and Jamaica
TerritoryLeavitt and David
The Kind of Light That Shines on TexasMcknight and Reginald
You're Ugly, TooMoore and Lorrie
The Management of GriefMukherjee and Bharati
MeneseteungMunro and Alice
Ghost GirlsOates and Joyce Carol
The Things They CarriedO'brien and Tim
The ShawOzick and Cynthia
Brokeback MountainlProulx and Annie
StraysRichard and Mark
Intensive CareSmith and Lee
The Way We Live NowSontag and Susan
Two KindsTan and Amy
First, BodyThon and Melanie Rae
Able, Baker, Charlie, DogVaughn and Stephanie
Nineteen Fifty-fiveWalker and Alice
FeverWideman and John Edgar
Taking CareWilliams and Joy