NONFICTION

Why I Like This Story

Camden House. Jun. 2019. 286p. ed. by Jackson R. Bryer. ISBN 9781640140585. $29.95. LIT
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This decades-in-the-making collection from Bryer (English, emeritus, Univ. of Maryland; The Selected Letters of Thornton Wilder) comprises 48 essays by a veritable all-star crew of literary luminaries (e.g., Julia Alvarez, William H. Gass, Annie Proulx, and Ann Beattie) discussing their favorite short stories. Canonized works by Flannery O'Connor, James Baldwin, Grace Paley, and Raymond Carver are celebrated alongside those by Viet Thanh Nguyen and Kirstin Valdez Quade. The most intriguing pieces, such as Nicholas Delbanco's examination of Bernard Malamud's "The Magic Barrel," describe a personal relationship with the author of the story selected. Maud Casey's entry on Denis Johnson's "Triumph over the Grave" succeeds in offering a fascinating reflection on Casey's temporary employment at a hospital convincing people to donate their bodies to science. Mako Yoshikawa's explication of a Junot Díaz entry addresses how the interpretation of Díaz's work has been reinformed by recent sexual harassment allegations against him. While this volume spans decades of writing, one critique is that the selections and authors featured could have represented a more culturally diverse cross-section of the literary landscape.
VERDICT Overall, insightful and personal (but not academic), these essays should be warmly welcomed by any fan of short fiction.

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