The problem with unsuccessful stories is usually simple: they are boring, a consequence of the failure of imagination. To vividly imagine and to vividly render extraordinary human events, or sequences of events, is the hard-lifting, heavy-duty, day-by-day, unending labor of a fiction writer.
Literary awards are inherently subjective, potentially corrupting, and oftentimes humiliating. They are also perhaps the most powerful antidote we have to the decline of serious fiction. and—as the author, the editor of The Best American Short Stories 2009, discovered—the best way of bringing good narrative to a wider world that desperately needs it.
Colleen was coming home from Iraq. Henry worried about how the girls would react when they saw their mother again after all this time, when they saw how she’d changed. And then there was Moira, Colleen’s sister. She was like a surrogate mother now. Almost a surrogate wife.
Último knew people claimed they’d seen Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary and even Jesus Christ. But this was Alba, an ordinary girl from Ricardo Flores. She had on shorts and a pale blouse, and her face was conflicted with desire. “Let me make a fire,” he said to her. “You must be cold.”
It was a swollen, gasping, netherworld creature. We had no tub big enough for it. Men came over and placed lanterns on the ground all around it, like candelabra at a dinner setting. I hoped it would die before they skinned it. Do you ever think those days were different, that time had not yet been corrupted?
What I know now is that I should not have continued shelling out 200bucks a pop to you. On some days I felt you two were picking up a frequency like a dog whistle that I just wasn’t able to hear. Of course, you might just have a great gift for empathy, but then I’d have to ask where was this gift when Jerry was trying to have me committed to the attic like that woman in Jane Eyre who set everything on fire.
Holding her hand in the coffee shop, I realized how close I’d come to blowing it with the one person in my life who needed me. Her family was back in Oregon. Her husband was distracted, about to lose his reputation and business if he couldn’t pull it together. And here I was, listening.
“I was dying with shame under the sheet. June was my best friend.”
“She put the light out and unbuttoned my shirt. This was the first sex of my life. It was heaven.”
“I was a waiter in Provincetown. My life changed when I met Ken.” “My husband, Byron, was a terrible diplomat. He quarreled with his colleagues and neglected me.”
The poet reads her poem aloud
The poet reads his poem aloud
Kent Nelson, author of the short story “Alba” in the 2009 Fiction Issue, explains how the 1960s folk scene and the poetic language of James Joyce inspired him to become a writer.
Wayne Harrison, author of the short story “Least Resistance” in the 2009 Fiction Issue, recalls his former life as a mechanic and his transformation into a writer.
Alexi Zentner, author of the short story “Furlough” in the 2009 Fiction Issue, discusses the new military family and the fine line between emotion and sentimentality.
Téa Obreht, author of the short story “The Laugh” in the 2009 Fiction Issue, describes how National Geographic shaped her writing career.
Jill McCorkle, author of the short story "PS" in the 2009 Fiction Issue, talks about happy endings, her irritation with Moby Dick, and her imaginary life as a therapist.
The latest volume of Kevin Starr’s history chronicles the triumph—and points toward the tragedy—of the Golden State’s Good Life
The cruelty and degeneracy the future president was subjected to in his youth forged his iron will
The author is ending her marriage. Isn’t it time you did the same?