The Best American Short Stories 1992 Summary

The Best American Short Stories 1992

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

It comes as no surprise that nine of the twenty stories in this year’s collection were originally published in THE NEW YORKER. That prestigious magazine is by far the best market for stories and generally receives first look at most offerings before they are sent downstream to the subsidized literary journals.

Robert Stone, guest editor of this year’s anthology, is author of many works of fiction, including the novels DOG SOLDIERS (1974) and OUTERBRIDGE REACH (1992). According to Stone, the stories he has chosen “reflect what is probably the most significant development in late-twentieth-century American fiction, the renewal and revitalization of the realist mode, which has been taken up by a new generation of writers.” Perhaps American writers are becoming as tired of literary obscurantism and superfluous experimentalism as the reading public in general.

Many of the authors included are perennials, such as Alice Adams, Mavis Gallant, Alice Munro, and the incredibly prolific Joyce Carol Oates. Male and female writers are about equally represented, either by chance or design. The stories are arranged alphabetically by author, so there is no first, second or third place.

In addition to providing good dramatic entertainment, the stories offer cameo views of the American scene. They seem to have been selected not only for merit but also to offer an overview of contemporary America itself, from the boondocks to the big cities. This year’s edition is full of impressive, top-quality fiction and lives up to the high standards that have been set by its editors for decades.

As usual, the book includes a list of one hundred other short stories deserving honorary mention and a list of addresses of American and Canadian magazines publishing short stories. The addresses are valuable for writers who are trying to place their stories in a highly competitive and dwindling market. There is also a new feature: a section of interesting capsule autobiographies of the twenty contributors in which each author explains how he or she came to write the story chosen to be honored in this venerable anthology.