Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Morning Reading: Alice Sebold

The Atlantic's fiction issue presents the forward to the The Best American Short Stories 2009 - by Alice Sebold, editor of the anthology.

...Narrative, after all, is perhaps the most powerful antidote we have in the face of what at first may appear to be insurmountable odds. If this weren’t true, the Incredible Hulk would never have become so popular with so many powerless children, the novels of Orhan Pamuk would not be publicly excoriated yet covertly embraced in his native land, and The Catcher in the Rye would not stand as it still does today, as a timeless, ageless call into the wild abyss.

To say that the stories I chose for The Best American Short Stories 2009 will save your life, vanquish the collection agents pounding at your door, or return your child, spouse, or cousin from the war is obviously ridiculous. But more than mere solace is to be gained from reading good stories—short stories in particular. Stories provide endless access into other worlds, brought forth by an infinite number of gifted minds. A story about grief can comfort; a story about arrogance can shock and yet confirm; a story populated largely by landscape, whether lush or industrial, can expand the realm that we inhabit.

I read more than 200 short stories this year. The publisher of The Best American Short Stories allows for only 20 to be published under that name. Eleven stories were total “yes” moments for me, when I wrote “It’s in!” immediately after finishing the last page. Then I had 30 vying for nine spots, and 15 vying for six, and finally three vying for one. Was the judging process scientific? Not in the least. Does this volume include stories that every writer—being honest—would give his or her eyeteeth to have written? You bet. Are the merits of some stories arguable? Certainly. But I promise you this: every story in the final selection deserves to be read. Deserves to be published. Deserves, in the case of some newer or lesser-known authors, to help lift these authors out of the slush pile, and to help them—here is what a prize or a best-of can do—find a larger audience in the world...

To read the rest, click here.

This Best American is one that is much anticipated in my household because of the inclusion of Steve De Jarnatt's short story "Rubiaux Rising," which appeared in the Spring 2008 issue of the Santa Monica Review.
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