Stephen King’s foreward bemoans the state, not of the short story itself, but of the market. Everyone’s writing, but no one reads. Or at least buys. Or is able to market in a way that people buy. It’s the same kind of wail Anne Patchett raised in her foreward to her version BASS collection a few years back. In a world of declining readership due to the yearning for an instant fix, one might think that shorter works would be doing better, but I guess not. But, in the spirit of accepting what I cannot change, I’ll just go on to the reading.
King has enormous star power, of course, and though I’ve liked some of his work, I didn’t expect his selections to match my tastes. Wrong, wrong. I liked this edition probably better than I’ve liked any other BASS. I didn’t want to. I wanted last year’s by Michael Chabon to be the best. I’ve met him, you see, and he lives in my neighborhood. Also, one of his books will be in my top ten of 2007. But, alas, Michael, I’ve got to say that Stephen beat you out.
There’s variety of tone and style here, some far out stuff, and some mainstream work. But I never struggled to make it through a one or wondered what the hell any of them were doing there. To pick a few:
—Jim Shepard’s “Sans Farine,” which I had read before it appeared in this anthology, remains and may always remain the best story about a medieval executioner I have ever encountered.
—-T.C. Boyle’s “Balto” (perhaps my favorite of the whole group) is a suspenseful and sensitive look at how children get drawn into the world of their alcoholic parents. Yet, it’s not a social treatise, but a wonderful exploration of the horrors of adolescence.
—-“Dimension” by Alice Munro verges on the supernatural and takes her into territory I didn’t think she set foot into.
—-Among the works of less well-known authors, Stellar Kim’s “Findings and Impressions” will take you apart and iron you out.
If you haven’t got a copy, find one. I’m sure the used book stores have many. If you do have it and haven’t gotten around to it–it’s time you did. After all, would you like to be one of those responsible for the demise of the short story?