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American Short Story Masterpieces: A Rich Selection of Recent Fiction from America's Best Modern Writers

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  388 ratings  ·  45 reviews
This highly Acclaimed collection of short stories by American writers contains only the best literary art of the past four decades. With a bias toward realism editors Raymond Carver and Tom Jenks have selected fiction that “tells a story”–and tells it with a masterful handling of language, situation, and insight.

But what is so special about this volume is that it mirrors o
Paperback, 528 pages
Published April 2nd 1989 by Dell (first published March 1st 1987)
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Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: short-fiction
Anthologies are always such a hodge podge. My favorites in this one: Sonny's Blues by Baldwin, Weekend by Beattie, Fever by Carver and Shiloh by Mason.

One thing I want to say though: Bobbie Ann Mason amazes me.
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
With 500+ pages and 36 stories, you'll get your money's worth (and then some since this is a mass market paperback), but your "masterpiece" mileage may vary. Some of the stories I'd wager were only included because they tinkered with the short story format, but that kind of tinkering is old hat now so the masterpiece mantle doesn't fit very well anymore-see "The Amish Farmer" by Vance Bourjaily.

None of the reviewers can agree on what the best or worst stories were, so here are my random thoughts
Aug 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I loved reading this book. I'm sad that it's over. I always forget how much I like short stories, so I don't read enough of them. This was a fun collection because it's filled with 20th-century American stories, most of which I'd never read in an anthology before.

Some that I really enjoyed:
Midair (Frank Conroy)
The Fat Girl (Andre Dubus)
Dream Children (Gail Godwin)
Christian Roomates (John Updike)
A Poetics for Bullies (Stanley Elkin)
Fever (Raymond Carver)
Rock Springs (Richard Ford)

and the one tha
Jul 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Jenks is the master. Read and learn.
Joseph Riden
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
An excellent source for writers looking for stories against which to gauge their own work; also for any enthusiast of short stories who hasn't read some of the stories included in this collection. I found some to like and some that I didn't care for. This kind of reading helps me in so many ways with my own writing, from setting standards, to simply broadening my horizons. There is something here for everyone who likes short stories. I doubt I will ever be "done" with reading these stories.

Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a dense collection and it takes perseverance at times to make the switches between stories. I found so many gems believing as I read I’d found my “favorite” but the last (“The Liar”) was indeed the one.
Laura Helle
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I like reading short story collections when life is crazy and I don't have the endurance for anything more. Some of the stories were misses for me, but enough hits to recommend it wholeheartedly. Thanks mom and dad for a great Christmas present! ...more
Cathy Ryan
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Collection of literary short stories that give a "shock of recognition that is the hallmark of great art." By accomplished writers from 1948-1984. Well worth reading over again. Many great examples of the literary short story form. ...more
Susanna Grant
May 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
an astoundingly good collection of short stories, my husband and I discovered this awesome little book right at the beginning of our marriage and immensely enjoyed reading thru these
Melinda Christensen
I've just decided that I can't really get emotionally involved in a story that is short. ...more
Jeff Hobbs
Read so far:

Sonny's blues / James Baldwin --4
*Weekend / Ann Beattie --
*The bystander / Gina Berriault --
Talk of heroes / Carol Bly --2
The Amish farmer / Vance Bourjaily --3
1/3, 1/3, 1/3 / Richard Brautigan --
Verona : a young woman speaks / Harold Brodkey --2
*Fever / Raymond Carver --
The fisherman from Chihuahua / Evan S. Connell --2
Midair / Frank Conroy --2
*Willi / E.L. Doctorow --
The fat girl / Andre Dubus --3
A poetics for bullies / Stanley Elkin --2
Rock springs / Richard Ford --2
*The lover of
Mar 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Actually, I'm not sure I'll ever be finished reading this -- in a good way. I pick this up when I'm between novels, open randomly and flip until I find a story I haven't read yet and read that. Some of the stories are good and some are phenomenal. The phenomenal ones I've read several times, and I expect I'll read them several times more. Tip top favorites include:

"Sonny's Blues" - James Baldwin - guy picks up his brother from jail after being arrested for heroin
"Walking Out" - David Quammen - k
May 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Of all the great stories in this anthology, it's hard to beat Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find." I'd forgotten how delightful the writing is. Her ability to vivify these characters with so few strokes of the brush is sheer magic. We meet a mother "whose face was as broad and innocent as a cabbage and was tied around with a green head-kerchief that had two points on the top like rabbit's ears." Does it get better than that?

Another favorite is John Gardner's Redemption, for its pat
May 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
"Masterpieces" sets the bar pretty high, but this anthology has enough variety and quality to merit it, I believe. There's a certain level of macho aesthetic permeating the collection that got a bit wearying after a while (Men Battle the Elements and Confront Death Stoically; Women Face Life with Resignation and/or Nag Men), but that's probably an inescapable result of the time period being sampled from. And some of them are truly luminous--James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues" is worth four stars all ...more
May 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
masterpieces: baldwin's sonny's blues, conroy's midair, roth's the conversion of the jews, elkin's a poetics for bullies, brautigan's 1/3 1/3

good: andre dubus' the fat girl, oates' where are you going, where have you been

worthwhile: ann beattie's weekend, richard ford's rock springs, john gardner's redemption, barry hannah's water liars, james salter's akhnilo

mediocre: grace paley's the used boy raisers, tobias woolf's the liar

bad: jayne ann phillips' the heavenly animal
Mar 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a great collection of stories if you are teaching a college or advanced high school English class, or I suppose if you just like well-crafted stories. But the majority are within the "MFA tradition", with exquisite langauge and description and literary devices that bear more weight than the actual story. Don't get me wrong, there aren't any postmodern or experimental head-scratchers, but still, a simple mystery wouldn't have killed anyone.

Sonny's Blues by James Baldwin, and The Lover of
Monte Dutton
Jul 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
The short stories included are breathtakingly beautiful. Some made me laugh. None made me cry, but a few made me sad. Only a few had I read before.
Not that it's breaking news, but "A Good Man Is Hard to Find " is among the best pieces of writing I've digested. It's hard to excel so completely in tragedy and comedy within the confines of one story, however brilliant it may be. "Tragicomic" exists on account of Flannery O'Connor.
Gerald Hickman
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Raymond Carver grew up in South Central Washington State. His first short stories concerned the local folks from and around his town near Yakima, WA. One of his critically acclaimed stories is printed in this edition. He is also a poet and several small towns along the Yakima River are very proud of the fact that Raymond is a product of the area.

I recommend that you check out some of his work it has an interesting small town flavor that you will enjoy.
Jul 14, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
These short stories are great to pass the time. You'll start to learn to appreciate different types of stories, too.

My ratings from what I've read:
(Note: * is what I read in Newark Academy)

*A Good Man Is Hard to Find- 5/5
*A Poetics For Bullies- 3/5
Fat Girl- 2/5
Fever- 2/5
The Story of a Scar- 4/5
*Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been- 5/5
Dec 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review and rating is only for the four short stories I read from the collection:
"Walking Out" by David Quommen
"The Fat Girl" by Andre Dubus
"Where are you going, Where have you been?" by Joyce Carol Oates
and "A good man is hard to find" by Flannery O'Connor.

All four are outstanding - dark and intense, with characters so fully developed in just a few pages. True masterpieces.
Jan 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: shorties
- The Amish Farmer by Vance Bourjaily
- The Fat Girl by Andre Dubus
- Rock Springs by Richard Ford
- Redemption by John Gardner
- The Ledge by Lawrence Sargent Hall
- Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been by Joyce Carol Oates
- A Good Man Is Hard To Find by Flannery O'Connor
- Akhnilo by James Salter
Troy Soos
Oct 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
An excellent collection of modern American short stories, with fresh perspectives and insightful writing. My favorites: Stanley Elkin's "A Poetics for Bullies," Andre Dubus's "The Fat Girl," and John Updike's "The Christian Roommates." ...more
Mackenzie Mackling
Dec 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Overall, a solid collection of stories. I read a bit over one third of them for my college English class. My favorites were Walking Out, The Story of a Scar, and Dream Children. I wasn't fond of Rock Springs or The Bystander. ...more
May 20, 2015 rated it liked it
While many of these stories were clearly standouts in their time, many of them have also aged rather poorly.

Some of the current standouts include:

1/3 1/3 1/3
A Good Man is Hard to Find
Walking Out
May 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
A book of short stories was on my reading challenge this year and this is the one I selected. I would randomly select a story when I was in-between other books I was reading. Several were good stories...others were rather dark and depressing. I must admit that I did not read all of the stories.
Michael Carrier
Oct 13, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nope
Recommended to Michael by: Bary
The collection of mostly post WW 2 stories are not very good. Most left me say so what or why write about that. I have come to enjoy the good short story so this was not a very pleasant read. I had hopped to find some new authors to read.
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
For many baby boomer short story writers, this book is the tree from which all fruit comes. So many of my favorite short stories are contained here: "Walking Out" by David Quammen, "The Ledge" by Lawrence Sargent Hall--it's a damn near perfect and timeless collection. ...more
Aug 23, 2007 rated it liked it
I went crazy for a handful of the stories.
Ann M
Aug 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Good editors, nice selection of stories, including some authors who are out of fashion, like Vance Bourjaily. Authors are mostly WWII generation with some older Boomers.
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Carver was born into a poverty-stricken family at the tail-end of the Depression. He married at 19, started a series of menial jobs and his own career of 'full-time drinking as a serious pursuit', a career that would eventually kill him. Constantly struggling to support his wife and family, Carver enrolled in a writing programme under author John Gardner in 1958. He saw this opportunity as a turni ...more

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