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The Ecco Anthology of Contemporary American Short Fiction

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  299 ratings  ·  32 reviews
A definitive collection of the very best short stories by contemporary American masters

Edited by Joyce Carol Oates, "the living master of the short story" ("Buffalo News"), and Christopher R. Beha, this volume provides an important overview of the contemporary short story and a selection of the very best that American short fiction has to offer.


The toughest Indian
softcover, 784 pages
Published October 14th 2008 by Ecco (first published October 1st 2008)
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4.08  · 
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 ·  299 ratings  ·  32 reviews

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Jun 24, 2010 rated it it was ok
There's definitely a lot of amazing writers in this anthology, and it could've been a great gateway to get more readers interested in contemporary short stories, but their choice of Joyce Carol Oates (who has very dark sensibilities) as an editor makes this collection wallow way too much in disturbing subject matter. Almost every story involves some kind of grisly murder, or rape, or even babies in dumpsters.

Not that there weren't some highlights: "Some Terpsichore" by Elizabeth McCracken was on
What a monster! This anthology had plenty of amazing stories, and a few not so amazing ones (some of which I skipped). I anticipate that I will have my students read "The Toughest Indian in the World" by Sherman Alexia, "The Hermit's Story" by Rick Bass, "Off" by Aimee Bender, "Son of the Wolfman" by Michael Chabon, "Night Women" by Edwidge Danticat, "Aurora" by Junot Diaz, "Disaster Stamps of Pluto" by Louise Erdrich, "Old Boys, Old Girls" by Edward P. Jones, "Once in a Lifetime" by Jhumpa Lahi ...more
May 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
I read another review that said you can tell these stories were selected by Joyce Carole Oates, and I completely agree. A good chunk of the stories are about death/murder/rape/other depressing/disturbing things like that, and that really strikes me as JCO's style. There is some pretty good stuff in here...but then there's other stories that I wondered why they were chosen. Those I particularly liked were "Lavande," "Off," "A House on the Plains," "To Those of You Who Missed Your Connecting Fligh ...more
Oct 07, 2011 rated it liked it
As with any anthology, there are good stories and bad stories. Some reached me in a visceral way, others left me flat. But the main thing I took away from this collection is the stagnant sameness of contemporary literary fiction.

As a reader, I crave fiction that is daring. Fiction the plays with form and themes. While there is some evidence of that here, I ended with the overall impression of a ton of first person narratives, a lot of pretentious, repellant, or otherwise uninteresting protagoni
Nov 11, 2010 marked it as sampled-a-few
If every Aimee Bender story were as great as Off, I'd go live in her home.

Very creepy to read Mary Gaitskill gang rape story I swear I remember reading many years ago on a plane, like in Esquire or something, then being permanently traumatized. Did not realize it was written by a woman, and certainly no idea who Gaitskill was at that time.

First thing I've read by Jhumpa Lahiri and liked it. Cannot read fiction about immigrant groups with cuisine I like though, since it makes me too hungry when t
Jul 16, 2011 rated it liked it
Of the 48 stories in this collection selected by Joyce Carol Oates, 7 are fabulous (those by Bausch, Danticat, Davis, Doctorow, Erdrich, Johnson and Lahiri).

Oates selected these stories because they were published in the 21st century, and because they represent the "variety" of the genre, including "abrupt and edgy" openings and traditional stories, beautifully written. She says that despite the lack of experimentation (though DFW is included here), all of the fiction is "unsettling".

I would ha
Oct 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
An excellent short fiction collection. There are is a huge selection of varied, talented, interesting writers contained in this book. I only disliked one ("Double Exposure" by Greg Johnson) but I enjoyed all of the rest of the stories featured in this volume. Ten of them I thought were especially phenomenal, including Michael Chabon's "Son of the Wolfman", "Disaster Stamps of Pluto" by Louise Erdrich, and Elizabeth McCracken's "Some Terpsichore." I would recommend this book to anyone, whether yo ...more
May 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Finally made it through this 750-page fatty. Some wonderful stuff in here, of course. Richard Bausch's "1-900" was hilarious; Ann Beattie's "Lavande" and E.L. Doctorow's "A House on the Plains" reminded me how fantastic those two writers can be. The latter was my favorite story in the book until I hit Lorrie Moore's "Paper Losses" -- nobody does funny/sad Lorrie Moore. Annie Proulx's "People In Hell Just Want a Drink of Water" was terrific, too.

Hmm. Interesting that all but one of those writers
Jan 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
This has a lot of great stories from (mostly) currently working American authors. It's nice to have a compilation of people who aren't dead yet, and are actually writing about the world we live in.

The range of the pieces is pretty broad though, so some doozies ended up in the book (like a story that takes place entirely via a 900 number call, which obviously feels dated, and isn't that good), but on the whole, this is a great anthology. It's also a good way to get used to short stories, since m
Jan 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I like anthologies: their heft and their variety. For the most part, I like this anthology; among my favorite selections are E.L. Doctorow's "A House on the Plains," William Gay's "The Paperhanger," and Joyce Carol Oates' "Landfill" (which one should not read before bed, as I did, should one want to avoid nightmares of being killed in a trash compacter). A few selections puzzled me - the stories selected to represent Amy Hempel, Lydia Davis, Lorrie Moore, and Aimee Bender are not what I consider ...more
Jun 04, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: shortstories
I am not a Joyce Carol Oates fan, so was worried (and rightly so) about an anthology of stories that she had selected. To me, Oates is heavy handed, looks at the world from a morbid and sinister perspective, and always goes for the tawdry and degrading detail. Unfortunately, that is also true of most of the work she collected here. Besides the stories by Lorrie Moore and Antonya Nelson, which I will always happily read, the only two I really liked were Ranch Girl by Maile Meloy and Bullet in the ...more
Marc Kohlman
Aug 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Wonderfully written short stories. Lovers of contemporary American short fiction and aspiring writers will love the ones in this book. I used this book for my Creative Writing: Fiction class last year and I really enjoyed examining different authors writing styles. The stories I read for my class were great and helped me in writing some of my own work, drafting out plots, and creating characters. The stories in this book are some of the most masterful pieces of short fiction I have ever read.
C. Woolf
Nov 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
I agree with some of the other reviews: there's a lot of dark material in this collection. But I enjoyed many stories including "The Hermit's Story" by Rick Bass, "Mercy" by Pickney Benedict, "A House on the Plains" by E.L. Doctorow, "Cowboy" by Thomas McGuane, and "Leslie and Sam" by Douglas Unger.
Apr 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
SO much fun- highly recommend. I haven't had such a good time reading in years. It was wonderful to get a fairly large sample of authors through this book- I have a tendency to stick with the same authors and genres for long periods, but after reading this I have so many "can't wait to reads" to look forward to.
The curatorial touch of Ms. Oates leans heavily on the darker side of things. Some disturbing stories in this collection, but a great range of American lit. Nice primer for those looking to delve deeper into short stories.

May 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Well, I finished it - the first story is actually probably my favorite, or at least way up there. Lots of really great ones. JCO is a subtle person. I think she's spent her life sexually repressed too! ;)
Jul 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Worth reading, each successive story linked to the one before it with a theme, idea, or obscure word, and I discovered some great authors that I didn't know about. There is, however, a glut of graphic descriptions of gay sex and pregnancy, most of which made them both seem exceptionally unpleasant
Aug 21, 2008 added it
pretty amazing collection but weirdly dark, does every marriage have to be awful, and every kid killed or scarred in some way? also there are at least two Mac grads included (Tim O'Brien and Charles Baxter) and lots of MN references.
Ch J Loveall
Oct 25, 2017 rated it liked it
various authors
Cid Mcdonald
Feb 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Some great stories, some good stories and some not so good or great stories. A good selection overall.
Jan 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Doctorow and Rick Bass stories are standouts among an excellent collection.
Jan 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic collection.
Nov 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Ugh. This just increased my mental to-read list by a million. If anything, read "Off" by Aimee Bender. Best opening two sentences ever.
Kevin Gallan
Apr 27, 2010 marked it as to-read
Sep 20, 2009 marked it as to-read
Best story so far is "The Hermit's Story" by Rick Bass. Also a great Ann Beattie story called "Lavande." Only 9 stories into the 48 in the book.
Aaron Mcilhenny
Dec 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
the kind of book that makes you want to scribble pretentious things in the margins, even if the stories themselves weren't too good
Robert Rozier
Aug 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book!!!!!
Dec 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
not my cup of tea.
Heather Gibbons
Dec 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teaching
My new favorite anthology for teaching beginning fiction writing. Great range.
Jan 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I will continue to go back to this book. Great selection.
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Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She is also the recipient of the 2005 Prix Femina for The Falls. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and she has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. Pseudonyms ... Rosamond Smith and Laure ...more