Adventures in Reading

More Best American Short Stories edited by Salman Rushdie

Best: x American: x Short: 14 Story: x
From Crazyhorse, Karen Brown’s “Galatea” is a fluttering into the life of Margaret Mary Bell. A college student in upstate New York, she discovers a romantic allure for William after meeting at a park. It’s a relationship of need and William’s past is disclosed in segments throughout the story. Eventually William leaves and Margaret discovers him to be the “Collegetown Creeper,” and the reader is left to wonder about Margaret’s own creeping.

My one glaring annoyance with this story is the first sentence: “I married William in upstate before he turned out to be the Collegetown Creeper.” In a story of suggestion and unresolved issues, I felt the first sentence gave it all away. Also, as a reader I found the sentence somewhat bulky in contrast to Brown’s otherwise gorgeous prose. Brown delivers beautiful environmental description providing a lot of effect for the weather and landscape of the region. These more concrete descriptions well-balanced the more understated themes of the story.

Best: x American: x Short: 20 Story: x
From The Missouri Review, Katie Chase’s “Man and Wife” is a conventional story with an increasingly dangerous edge: pre-adolescent Mary Ellen has been contracted into a marriage by her parents. The reader’s shocked response is met by a smooth narrative that introduces us to a world of traditional customs overlaying a childhood of Barbies and elementary school. In an absurd coming-of-age story, Chase alters our reality.

Reading like a cross between Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Lois Lowry’s The Giver, Chase has written an off-kilter tale combining normalcy and foreignness: it’s a story of child brides, arranged marriages, and recycling bins. In Chase’s comments, she mentions being influenced by Edith Wharton and her own desire to create a story within author-made constraints. I was also impressed, as this is Chase’s first published work, and the first story in the collection by a “non-professional.”

Best: ? American: x Short: 12 Story: x
From The Paris Review, Danielle Evan’s “Virgins” is the story of Jasmine, Michael, and Erica. These three teenagers deal with the stress of summer, relationships, and sex. In an evening of being adult, Jasmine leads the way to an adult club through the use of fake I.D.s. Erica and Michael are resistant, they participate in the evening. Only Erica and Jasmine make it into the club and the evening escalates into a dangerous and curious foray in adult sexuality.

An okay story, but not best perhaps. I liked the story and where it went. I liked that Evans provided a female character that could make mistakes, witness the mistakes she was making, but not necessarily lead to a cruel conclusion. The story was thoughtful if not thought-provoking, it was well-written, I sympathized with the characters, and in most everywhere it was a perfect example of a short story but I wasn’t moved by it.

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