Read This… The Best American Short Stories

According to the New York Times, we’re entering a new Golden Age of short stories due to the explosion of eBook and eReaders and the public’s lazy attitude toward story length. Whatever the reason, I’ve noticed a lot of authors going back to work on their short game. And so this semester, in my Fiction Appreciation class at the University of Akron, we’re reading The Best American Short Stories, 2012. True to its name, there’s some goodies in here. Some stand-outs:

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, reads so very true. A story that takes place almost entirely through small talk, we’re treated to a front-row seat at an awful reunion of suburban despots who decide to play a creepy game of “Who’s the hypocrite.” As in, would you really hide Anne Frank or would you turn her into the Nazi’s?

The Other Place, by Mary Gaitskill, is a mesmerizing account of a would-be serial killer’s first target and how she got away. But it’s also a story about how we fear our children will inherit our worst traits, wink wink, nudge nudge. Interesting this ran in the New Yorker. Would it have been published there if it had been written by a man?

Navigators reads like a prequel to Ernie Cline’s Ready Player One. It’s a touching story about a recently-divorced father and his son as they try to beat an 8-bit video game in which the objective is to lose everything you hold dear.

And fuckin Miracle Polish, man. Like a lost episode of The Twilight Zone. One of the good ones where the devil makes an appearance, offering a gift.

Beautiful Monsters has your post-apocalyptic dystopia fix, this one set in a world of ageless children who encounter an adult.

George Saunders’ Tenth of December is here. Everyone is raving for it. But it’s just an experiment in extreme POV that kind of gets in the way of the narrative.

Is this the best America has to offer, though? Nuh-uh. Not by a long shot. Next year, they should dig deeper. Hell, be proactive and add a couple self-published eBooks.