The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, edited by Ben Marcus; When the Nine Rolls Over and Other Stories by David Benioff
There are 29 stories in The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories. “In 29 separate but ingenious ways,” writes its editor, Ben Marcus, they “seek permanent residence within a reader.” Whatever that sentence is supposed to mean—separate but ingenious?—the stories selected by Marcus do represent a reasonably comprehensive cross-section of the younger generation of contemporary American writers. Some of these writers—David Foster Wallace, Anne Carson, Jhumpa Lahiri—are already well-known. Others, like Sam Lipsyte, George Saunders, and Padgett Powell, while not exactly famous, can nevertheless be found in the pages of Harper’s or the New Yorker. Even the obscure are hardly starving, having placed stories in collections under established imprints.
In length, the stories collected here range from two to 39 pages. In subject matter, they cover a familiar range of territory: incest, dysfunctional relationships, addiction, violence, poverty, lower-class despair, middle-class despair, upper-middle-class despair. Some, like those by Stephen Dixon, Aimee Bender, and Lydia Davis, follow the Donald Barthelme model: spare, slightly surreal. Others, including the contributions by Deborah Eisenberg, Mary Gaitskill, and Anthony Doerr, adhere to the expansive, quirky American style pioneered by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Saul Bellow.
About the Author
Sam Munson, who reviewed Elizabeth Bishop’s Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box in May 2006, is online editor of COMMENTARY.