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The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  795 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
“In twenty-nine separate but ingenious ways, these stories seek permanent residence within a reader. They strive to become an emotional or intellectual cargo that might accompany us wherever, or however, we go. . . . If we are made by what we read, if language truly builds people into what they are, how they think, the depth with which they feel, then these stories are, to ...more
ebook, 496 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Anchor (first published August 10th 2004)
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When I finished this collection of thirty stories by as many authors, I almost decided not to review it because the very thought set my mind in a tailspin. How do you begin to sort out your reactions to such a cornucopia. Cornucopia isn’t even the appropriate word because the collection wasn’t entirely full of good things - about half-full at best, but then how can I have any certainty about the quality when I can't remember much of what I read - I’m relying simply on the ticks I put at the end ...more
Tom Tabasco
Feb 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is the literary equivalent of a wine tasting experience. Some wines I found myself spitting all over the wall, but others are incredibly good ones, and make the whole experience worth it.

Sea Oak by George Saunders. 5 stars. Just out-of-this-world wonderful story. Great balance of humour, social commentary and a sprinkle of magic. But mostly humour.
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower. 4 stars. Vikings feeling the blues. Without the attention-grabbing "blood eagle", I'm
There are four absolutely terrific stories in this book:

"The Caretaker" by Anthony Doerr
"When Mr. Pirazda Came to Dine" by Jhumpa Lahiri
"Tiny, Smiling Daddy" by Mary Gaitskill
"Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned" by Wells Tower

Some of the contributions, although they don't fully succeed, are well worth reading:

"Gentlemen's Agreement" by Mark Roth
"Someone to Talk To" by Deborah Eisenberg
"Sea Oak" by George Saunders
"Field Events" by Rick Bass
"X Number of Possibilities" by Joanna Scott
"The Old Di
Anthologies are fun because you discover new authors. "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned" by Wells Tower blew me away. "Sea Oak" by George Saunders also stuck with me. Also, I was briefly obsessed with the book's cover design.
Jan 15, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Like a lot of collections of varying emotional platitudes and experience, this is no different, and is always hit or miss, and rarely consistently great.

With the exception of an abysmal middle section that spans a couple hundred pages or so, the real meat of this book occurs somewhere at the beginning and the end.

What follows are little synopses of my top 5 stories. So, if by chance, you happen to have this book in your hands or are able to procure it for cheap, I recommend directing your atten
Jan 03, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stories, re-read
Some good stories but mostly quirky shit. Which I like. They put me to sleep good.
LaTanya McQueen
Jul 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I normally hate anthologies. Most of the time they are filled with stories I've already read, are edited/picked by predominantly novelists (Best American Series anyone?), or are filled with stories I'd much rather have the author's collected work of instead. What got me interested in this particular anthology was that it was edited by Ben Marcus. Reading his own work was a liberating experience and I had no doubt that the stories in this would be at least worth taking a look at. I bought the col ...more
Isaac Miller
"The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories" was edited by Ben Marcus and was actually the first short story collection that I got for my Kindle, and I just got around to finishing it (shows how good I am about keeping up with things, huh?). It contains 29 stories by the authors listed on the cover. Some of the authors are famous and well-known, while others will be new discoveries for readers. It was published in 2004, before some of them became established. Wells Tower's story "Everything R ...more
Ben Bush
Mar 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
I was given this a few years back and I actually think it's a pretty fantastic collection and I've gone on to read books by many of the authors in it. I saw a copy for cheap on the library sale rack and picked it up to pass along to a friend. I never really liked George Saunders until I read SeaOak in here which is so funny and sad. And also way big ups to Mathew Derby, that story and the collection that it's from are fantastic. Even A.M. Homes, who I get the feeling kind of drops the ball with ...more
Jan 26, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Very disappointing collection. No surprises - the short story authors that I already knew were great had great stories (William Gay, using probably the most anthologized story in recent history, "The Paperhanger", A.M. Holmes, George Saunders) while more than 3/4 of the book's stories are limp and uninteresting. I did learn of one author that is new to me, though - Lydia Davis. Her story, "The Old Dictionary", all of 2.5 pages long, is *amazing*.
Mar 06, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
(4.4/5.0) Even if many of these stories are unreadable, Ben Marcus is has become one of my literary heroes. He rallies for language and the unexpected and together, the best of these stories come off as real marvels– the worst, interesting studies in narrative failure.
Meg Tuite
Mar 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant selection of stories! You cannot miss with this one!
This was a really weak collection.


"Tiny, Smiling Daddy" by Mary Gaitskill (about a father/daughter relationship)
"X Number of Possibilites" by Joanna Scott (which I enjoyed for the beautiful, tight language of the prose)
"Short Talks" by Anne Carson (such poetry!)
"Letters to Wendy's" by Joe Wenderoth (this is a really humorous, absurd piece)
"The Caretaker" by Anthony Doerr (one of the longest in the collection, but it held me until the end)

One reviewer has mentioned the phrase "navel-ga
May 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matthew by:
Shelves: textbooks
I'll be teaching this anthology as my primary fiction text in an intro to creative writing course this fall. As far as introducing student who have had little exposure to contemporary fiction and also providing a myriad of examples for beginning writers to think about constructing stories, this is an excellent source. You get some more traditional methods (Jhumpa Lahiri, Mary Gaitskill) mixed with highly lyrical stories. the George Saunders, Brian Evenson, William and Rick Bass stories are likel ...more
Christina Maria
If you've read my reviews for other anthologies, you can probably guess what I made of this one. I suppose this one was especially varied/incoherent, given the broad theme.

Favorite section: Anne Carson's Short Talks.
Dec 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stories, 2016
Brought this with me during my bookstore shift thinking, okay, Rachel, let's knock this out! Didn't happen. 3 stories from the finish and I have got some feelings to share.

The authors I already knew (Gaitskill, Homes, Doerr, Richard) have exceptional examples of their work in this - Evenson's "Two Brothers" especially was a violent treat - so hats off to them. There's another third of authors I hadn't heard of whose work I immediately wanted more of, which is the true beauty of anthologies like
Aug 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In which I discover my new favorite author of fiction, non comic-book division.

While doing research for the creative writing class I will be teaching this year, I came across several recommendations for a short story contained in this book titled, "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned" by Wells Tower. I'm thinking pen name.

I bought the compilation and read the story on my walk home. Then I read it to Kristin because she was sick and in bed. It's about Vikings and longing for home and the thin
Juliana Gray
After finishing this book, I'm wondering what I've gotten myself into. I ordered this anthology as a textbook for a freshman composition class, based on the strength of the few stories I had already read and admired (William Gay's "The Paperhanger," Wells Tower's "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned" and a few others). But now, after finishing the book, I think I may be in trouble. These stories are weird. Some of them are terrific-- I love George Saunders's darkly hilarious "Sea Oak" and Rick ...more
Sep 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With 29 different authors and short stories within, this book is jam-packed with different styles and at least 1 story you'll enjoy (because they're all so different!) I personally feel like the best stories were the first two in the novel, though there is definitely merit to those throughout. In the intro Marcus talks about how when he was pulling this book together he was not looking particularly for different stories, but different approaches to short stories and through this collection, you ...more
Well, the first story I read was the A.M. Homes story. Very good. Others--Evenson (who I like, but have to work myself up to read), William Gay, Mary Caponegro--I'm not sure would be best for an undergrad intro to fiction writing class. I guess it depends on the class, but I'm afraid everyone would suddenly start writing bad gothic/horror stories. I haven't finished the entire collection yet, but I'm not feeling as excited about teaching with this book as I was when I started the Homes story, in ...more
Feb 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is among my most frequently perused books of short stories, mainly because it is so wonderfully edited. Ben Marcus has assembled a selection that defies generalization on any level apart from the brilliance of each piece. After reading some of Marcus' own fiction, I think I can detect a thread of personal inclination leading to many of these stories, but perhaps I'm imagining it. At the moment, I'm a little stuck on Two Brothers, by Brian Everton, which combines some kind of Appalachian hor ...more
Fewer great stories than I'd hoped for! I bought this used in a stab at frugality instead of buying the new edition, also edited by Ben Marcus, that came out in 2015. Foiled again!

Most of the truly greats or very good indeeds I'd read previously, like stories by Wells Tower, Saunders, early Jhumpa Lahiri, Aleksandar Hemon (who can do no wrong). I did discover that A. M. Homes kicks ass and I need to read more of her work, and enjoyed a smattering of other stories I'd managed not to read before.
Mar 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the best anthologies I've read in a while. Some of the standout stories include "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned" by Wells Tower, a quiet story about some reluctant barbarians who would rather sit around and talk about relationships than pillage and berserk, and "Sea Oak" by George Saunders, a disturbingly funny story about an old lady who comes back from the dead to tell her dysfunctional family what to do with their lives. If you've never given short fiction a chance, you should d ...more
Samarth Bhaskar
Nov 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish I knew earlier on in some stories that I should stop reading them. But overall, Ben Marcus has a great eye for American short story. This collections features some of the best I've read in the contemporary era. But few as good as the most recent short story by the editor himself, Ben Marcus. "Cold Little Bird" in the New Yorker in fall 2015 was among the best short stories I've ever read. It is also among the most American.
Aug 14, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Nice jacket design, amusing Ben Marcus introduction, and great yarns from George Saunders ("Sea Oak," available in his Pastoralia) and the mysterious Wells Tower ("Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned," apparently available in his book of the same name), neither of whom I was familiar with before I picked up this anthology. Thus the two stars.

Other than that, I was so incredibly bored by and detached from the rest of these stories that I couldn't finish most of them, short as they may be.
Nick Sanford
Jul 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's a good variety here, and a generous mix of stories written by both female and male writers. However, I found that many of the protagonists featured in these stories were of the male voice -- I think the editor could have done a better job choosing stories that featured female characters. I read this book in my Intermediate Fiction class and it proved to be a wonderful, insightful read. We read it in conjunction with Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern.
Mar 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this collection! It's a pretty diverse group of writers and i appreciated the mix-up of narrative and diction styles. I loved "The Caretaker" by Anthony Doerr and "All American" by Diane Williams and the Rick Bass, Christine Schutt and AM Homes were great as well. The introduction is by Ben Marcus and is worth the read. It also smells nice and has a comfortable heft, good cover colors, and the spine is sturdy.
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I liked several of the stories because they were written well and were poignant; Sea Oak made me laugh, Do Not Disturb made me sweat, When Mr Pirzada Came to Dinner was touching, and The Caretaker is worth the read.

Many of the others seemed self-indulgent, different to be different, confusing, or neurotic for the sake of being neurotic. I found the priest story so aggravating that I almost threw the book into the pool.
May 01, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Five star stories:

Sea Oak - George Saunders
Do Not Disturb - A.M. Homes
The Caretaker - Anthony Doerr
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men - David Foster Wallace
Field Events - Rick Bass

Four Star Stories:

The Old Dictionary - Lydia Davis
The Sound Gun - Matthew Derby
Two Brothers - Brian Evenson
Letters to Wendy's - Joe Wenderoth
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned - Wells Tower

Rest were just okay, some were too minimalistic that they were incomprehensible.
H.L. Nelson
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There aren't many stories in this anthology that I think miss the mark. Marcus did a fine job of finding ones that play with form, as well as those with elements of the strange/surreal. Some of my very faves are in here, along with ones I had never read, such as Rick Bass's "Field Events," Brian Evenson's "Two Brothers," and Wells Tower's "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned." All amazing. I'll be re-reading this quite a bit.
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Seemingly the most conspicuous aspect of Ben Marcus' work, to date, is its expansion on one of the most primary concerns of the original Surrealist authors -- perhaps most typified by Benjamin Péret, husband of the acclaimed painter Remedios Varo -- this being a very deep interest in the psychological service and implication of symbols and the manners by which those symbols can be maneuvered and r ...more
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