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The Best American Short Stories 2009 by…
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The Best American Short Stories 2009 (2009)

by Alice Sebold (Editor), Heidi Pitlor (Series Editor)

Other authors: Daniel Alarcón (Contributor), Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum (Contributor), Steve de Jarnatt (Contributor), Joseph Epstein (Contributor), Alice Fulton (Contributor)15 more, Karl Taro Greenfeld (Contributor), Eleanor Henderson (Contributor), Greg Hrbek (Contributor), Adam Johnson (Contributor), Victoria Lancelotta (Composer), Yiyun Li (Contributor), Rebecca Makkai (Contributor), Jill McCorkle (Contributor), Kevin Moffet (Contributor), Richard Powers (Contributor), Annie Proulx (Contributor), Ron Rash (Contributor), Alex Rose (Contributor), Ethan Rutherford (Contributor), Namwali Serpell (Contributor)

Series: The Best American Short Stories (2009), Best American (2009)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
234949,373 (3.72)17
All member reviews
Showing 9 of 9
Just a mediocre collection. All of the stories are well written, but they blend together...few of them take risks, and fewer of them are really interesting or striking. By far, the best of the stories are "The Briefcase" by Rebecca Makkai and "Magic Words" by Jill McCorkle. The most interesting and unique is "Modulation" by Richard Powers.

Overall, though, this isn't a collection I'd recommend. I've read some "Best Of" in this series where every other story begs me to search out more work by the respective authors. Here? Not one. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Apr 6, 2014 |
Strongest BASS in quite a while! I was absolutely knocked out by Steve De Jarnatt's amazing "Rubiaux Rising," which could make a short story reader out of any skeptic. Other standouts for me: stories by Richard Powers, Annie Proulx, Ethan Rutherford and Joseph Epstein. Wow, genius! Two stories on modern China (by Greenfeld and Li) also fascinated me.

Hey! Somebody consult the legal department! There are no Alice Munro stories here. She lands three on the extended list, but it's hard to believe none deserved inclusion. Of course, she doesn't really need the recognition anymore. But with Updike gone, it feels like the passing of an era.

Along those lines, the series needs to look to the future. Good to see some historical fiction included here, but the series still needs more genre stories. (Guest editor Chabon pointed this out in 2005.) Hrbek's "Sagittarius" clearly got the annual slot that's gone recently to Karen Russell for a story in the literary/surreal approach to genre. My strongest word of advice to series ed. Heidi Pitlor (who has my dream job!) is embrace more genre fiction. Rid yourself of the workshoppy deadweight and go for a killer mix of literary and genres that truly encompasses the full spectrum of American stories. ( )
  patronus11 | Mar 31, 2013 |
As you would expect of this kind of anthology, it's rather inconsistent. Some stories are better than others. Unfortunately, there are more mediocre or simply absurd stories than good ones in this collection. Much of this is due to the seemingly desperate search for variety, originality, and shallow timeliness. The standouts, which are specific in place and time but still seemingly timeless, make the book worth reading--or at least sampling. Unfortunately, there are too few of them. They include stories by Karl Taro Greenfeld, Eleanor Henderson, Victoria Lancelotta, Rebecca Makkai, Ron Rash, and (probably the best of the lot) Jill McCorkle. ( )
  TheBentley | Feb 23, 2011 |
A very good compilation of short stories. In particular I enjoyed the stories by Daniel Alarcon, Adam Johnson, Rebecca Makkai, Richard Powers and Annie Proulx. ( )
  updraught | Dec 30, 2010 |
This book starts off at a disadvantage because I have high expectations going into it. These should be the best short stories I've read all year (or at least that's how I approach it). After reading half of the book earlier this year, I gave up. None of these stories made me want to keep reading, I didn't get hooked on any characters or writing style, and each one made me feel "eh."

But then I began to read, from the beginning, a couple of weeks ago. And each story I reread, I liked a whole lot more. Not to say I thought these were the best I've read all year, but that the first read through was so horrible and now the stories seemed decent. Not engaging. I don’t know, maybe I just wasn’t in a good reading mood the first time I picked up this book, but either way, the book fell a little flat for me.

Some I didn’t enjoy because of the endings. They started out strong and got me hooked, hitting the right emotional buttons and getting me to understand the characters, but the endings left me unfulfilled. Magic Words by Jill McCorkle had a few storylines, one of which sucked me in (the wife/mother planning her first affair), but the theme of magic words (please, thank you), the aubusive teenager, and the coyote seemed uneven. The Anniversary Trip by Victoria Lancelotta had the perfect tone of a woman on her last trip with her husband before leaving him, really hitting the wife's emotions and her lack of passion and effort for a marriage she knows has no future.


But I find it helpful to like the main character, but that doesn't mean I have to picture myself being friends with this person if I were to ever meet them. A character has to stay true to him or herself and the only way to know that as a reader is to feel a connection to the character, to know this person in the story. That didn't happen in some of these, at least not for me. I felt disconnected to the main characters in The Idiot President, Rubiaux Rising, One Dog Year, and A Man Like Him, but at the same time I loved the formerly absent father Hurricanes Anonymous, neighbor girls and babysitter in The Farmlands, and the wife/mother in Magic Words.

Some stories that stood out:

Hurricanes Anonymous: more plot-driven that the rest – shows the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and a father making a change in his life
Yurt: theme of making a decision and doing something – anything
The Shadow Table: odd relationship between an engaged couple which seems to revolve around only food and her being polite, the language and sentence structure, how the main character seems so real and consistent - second half not as great
The Farmlands: voice of narrator and the two girls she watches – realistic dialogue and believable characters and situation

Favorite Piece:
The Peripatetic Coffin by Ethan Rutherford. I love war stories and this is a first person account of a small group of men using submarines in warfare for the first time during the civil war. At this time, these things are deathtraps under the water – little mistakes cause everyone in the sub to die (the first group drowns because the Lt. accidentally steps on a lever on his way into the sub). This is the story of the third group of guys going into the sub, knowing everyone who has gone before them died trapped in the sub. There’s the heightened emotions, suspense, great descriptions (“there’s an explosion so deafening it’s like tasting sound” "wore a look so far beyond stricken it resembled paralysis"), and a great ending! Every sentence rings true, and to be honest, I love stories told in first person. After reading this, I remembered what it’s like getting sucked into a story and not being disappointed by any part of it.

Overall, a couple of stories held my interest, but most fell flat or felt disjointed and didn't sound like the best of the best for 2009. It still won't stop me to purchasing 2010. ( )
  ShortStorySlore | Oct 28, 2010 |
bought this book last Fall but didn't read it until recently. You know how it goes, so many books, so little time. I love short stories and I have been reading this series since the mid 8's. The 2010 edition should be coming out in October or so.

This year's edition has some great stories.

"The Idiot President" by Daniel Alarcon -(No, it is not about W!)

"Rubiaux Raising" by Steve de Jarnatt - A story that incorporates the war in Iraq and hurricane Katrina.

"Hurricanes" by Adam Johnson - (One guess which hurricane it refers to .)

"Modulation" by Richard Powers - This story about music and viruses, and musica piracy is brilliant.

"Them Old Cowboy Songs" by Annie Proulx - Another story of the how hard life in the west was. This story is set back in the 1800's. Annie Proulx may be my favorite author. Many people don't realize that "Brokeback Mountain" was a short story by Proulx.

"Into the Gorge" by Ron Rash.

"The Peripatetic Coffin" by Ethan Rutherford. - A story incorporating the confederates submarine , the H.L. Hunley, used in the Civil War.

If you don't want to buy the book, get a copy from your local library to read any of the above stories.

I give this book a solid four stars out of five. It is great. ( )
  YogiABB | Sep 18, 2010 |
Very few stories were enjoyable, and they were either very good or very bad. One common theme throughout the entire collection was no plot. I love characters and character development, but there was far too much character with plots that went nowhere. And not that the characters in the character-filled stories were even that great.

The only reason I'm rating it 3 stars is for the few good stories in it: Sagittarius, The Farm, and a few others.

I love the Best American Series, but this was the first short stories collection I have read, and I probably won't be doing it again. ( )
  tmostman | May 25, 2010 |
Sebold's introduction made me thing that I'll never write well enough to be published anywhere, but the stories are all excellently-written, and at the back of the book, the authors talk briefly about what inspired them, which I found fascinating. ( )
  upstairsgirl | Feb 7, 2010 |
I read all these stories. Some with more enjoyment than others and that last one I skimmed parts of. I don't know if any of them are any good. I might include a spoiler. None of them caused me to write down the author's name so I could find more by him or her. Maybe the Alarcon story was the best -- it was the first. Some of the stories are very contemporary &, everything else being equal, that makes them more interesting. A more conscientious person would list the stories & provide a response to each. Yurt was OK but I didn't get into the characters. Rubiaux Rising was good and interesting. Oh yeah, I liked Beyond the Pale, it reminded me of Singer (even as the author in the story hated Singer.) A Shadow Table had some good parts but it was whiny. NowTrends was interesting & worth reading. The Farms is about AIDS, that was sad. Sagittarius was silly. Hurricanes Anonymous has some interesting ideas, like the guy & his son living in the UPS truck, but I didn't find enough to like in the characters. The Anniversary Trip was ordinary. A Man Like Him was OK, it had some stuff to make you think. The Briefcase was OK but it was so bleak. Magic Words was OK, I liked that people connected with other people. One Dog Year didn't appeal to me, John D was boring. Modulation was cool. Them Old Country Songs was professional written, of course, but grim and I just have that feeling that Annie Proulx kind of relishes the grimness. Into the Gorge was sad. Ostracon -- well I forgot it -- and I don't want to think about Alzheimers anyway. The Peripatetic coffin was OK. I hated Muzungu, I really really hated it.
  franoscar | Nov 24, 2009 |
Showing 9 of 9

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