Best American Short Stories 1987 Summary

Best American Short Stories 1987

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The stories gathered here are drawn from a wide range of publications. Slick magazines account for more than half of the total; THE NEW YORKER is the leading source, with five stories, while ESQUIRE placed three. There are also stories from a generous mix of literary magazines, both well established (THE PARIS REVIEW, THE HUDSON REVIEW) and relatively obscure (THE CRESCENT REVIEW, THE INDIANA REVIEW). If the sources are refreshingly diverse, however, the stories themselves are far too much alike: All but a handful of them offer what might be called slices of everyday life, and the slices are remarkably thin. No one goes to church in these stories; no one reads a book. There are too many bleak epiphanies, and not enough humor.

It is true that not all the stories purvey domestic realism, but those which do not are by no means uniformly successful. Susan Sontag’s “The Way We Live Now,” the most ambitious and most unconventional story in the volume, employs a chorus of conflicting voices to recount the experience of an AIDS victim--although the disease is never mentioned by name. Seeking to avoid minimalist banalities, Sontag over intellectualizes her material in the manner of Nathalie Sarroute. Craig Nova’s “The Prince” is a fine dark tale, one of the two best pieces in the book. Mavis Gallant’s “Kingdom Come” is not typical of her work; it is a tidy, ironic story, a modern parable, irritatingly smug. “Lady of Spain,” by Robert Taylor,...

(The entire section is 409 words.)