Brad Hodges's Reviews > The Best American Short Stories 2010 (The Best American Series

The Best American Short Stories 2010 (The Best American Series by Richard Russo
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Dec 24, 10

Read from October 25 to December 24, 2010

When it comes to short stories, I have a particular like. I tend to enjoy stories that are funny, and that have a plot arc. Those stories that are meditative and in which not much happens don't do much for me.

As one would imagine, the latest volume of Best American Short Stories (a series that goes back over thirty years) has some stories that I thought were wonderful and some that I thought were ho-hum, and one that I could not make heads or tails of. I give guest editor Richard Russo credit for making his selection broad enough in scope so as to seem all the same. I know I would be tempted to.

There are twenty stories here, arranged in alphabetical order by author. One of my favorites led things off, "Donkey Greedy, Donkey Gets Punched," by Steve Almond, a comic tale of a psychologist who is treating a professional poker player. Another favorite is "Painted Ocean, Painted Ship," by Rebecca Makai, about a Coleridge scholar who finds herself cursed after she shoots an albatross, and "The Cowboy Tango," a gorgeous story by Maggie Shipstead about unrequited love on a dude ranch.

In the next tier I would add these stories with exceptionally long titles: Danielle Evans' "Someone Ought to Tell Her There's Nowhere to Go," concerning a veteran who forms an attachment to an old girlfriend's daughter, "My Last Attempt to Explain to You What Happened With the Lion Tamer," by Brendan Matthews, which has the bonus of being narrated by a clown, and Karen Russell's "The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach," which carries some of the magic realism that most of her work has.

Joshua Ferris' "The Valetudinarian," about an elderly man getting the gift of a prostitute for his birthday, starts promisingly, but I found that it fell apart at the end. "All Boy," by Lori Ostlund, which details a young homosexual boy and his closeted father, has its moments, but seems overly precious to me. Kevin Moffett's "Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events" is a bit of a mind-bender, with the story about a short-story writer and all the rules of writing, which Moffett proceeds to break, one by one.

The stories I didn't care for include Charles Baxter's "The Cousins" and Jim Shepard's "The Netherlands Lives With Water," a cautionary tale about the effects of global warming. It may have been because I read this story before going to bed, but I had no idea what was happening in it, although I perk up at the pornographic elements of it.

I solidly enjoyed a good three-quarters of the stories, though, so it was well worth the investment.
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