LITERATURE

Pushcart Prize XLV: Best of the Small Presses 2021 Edition

Pushcart. (Prize). Dec. 2020. 600p. ed. by ed. by Bill Henderson. ISBN 9780960097708. $35; pap. ISBN 9780960097715. $19.95. LIT
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For the past 45 years the Pushcart Press has awarded its annual prize for the best essays, short fiction, and poetry. For this year’s edition, editor Henderson (Tower; All My Dogs: A Life) has compiled an eclectic anthology, including mostly up-and-coming authors, publishing in such periodicals as the Kenyon Review, Granta, and Poetry. In a noteworthy essay that could be a primer for beginning fiction writers, Lydia Davis points to works she turned to for help in the craft of writing. Short fiction selections range from a comparatively lightheaded account of a bridesmaid regretting a one-night stand with the would-be groom, an Amish man cutting his hair and purchasing new clothes as perhaps a prelude to a new life, and a lesbian couple contemplating having a baby, to an elephant handler in Burma. Of particular note is John Rolfe Gardiner’s “Freak Corner,” which addresses transvestism in the mid-19th century, along with the prejudice and misunderstanding surrounding the Deaf. An adolescent boy describes his street with the requisite bullies, existing along with his sister Gayle, thought to be retarded because she doesn’t speak, and the neighbor Alfie who becomes Margaret and then Alfie again.
VERDICT This fascinating anthology is a must for all collections.

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