The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story

Penguin Pr. May 2021. 496p. ed. by John Freeman. ISBN 9781984877802. $28. LIT
Freeman’s excellent introduction to this new anthology of modern short stories will be useful to readers who are unfamiliar with the format; for students of the short story, it’s a refreshing overview. Freeman, a writer and literary critic, formerly of Lit Hub, is an executive editor at Knopf and an artist-in-residence at New York University. He sets out to cull stories that demonstrate tumult, expansion, sexual freedom, suburbanization, growth, and wealth; he’s also tracking the high points of the development of the short story. These 37 distinct, previously published entries are a varied sample from the last 50 years of U.S. literature, including works of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. The table of contents is a who’s who of writers: Lucia Berlin, Ted Chiang, Sandra Cisneros, Edwidge Danticat, Louise Erdrich, Ursula K. LeGuin, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ken Liu, Grace Paley, and more. Several entries are extremely brief, like Alice Walker’s “The Flowers” and Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girls.” Percival Everett’s “The Fix” explores the problem with miracles. This collection has a short story for any mood.
VERDICT This anthology sets itself apart by providing an inclusive starting point for readers interested in discovering the power of the short story; it is golden for those who already recognize that power.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing