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The works that editor Ben Marcus has collected inThe Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, while diverse in their stylistic methods, are uniformly accomplished. An almost confoundingly cerebral and brilliantnovelistandshort storywriter, Marcus is a genre unto himself, a linguistic alchemist not primarily known for spinning yarns. It's to Marcus's credit that the stories in this anthology span a wide swath of American writing, not just the outer reaches of narrative invention. In his introduction, he calibrates our literary compass, proclaiming:

Stories keep mattering by reimagining their own methods, manners, and techniques. A writer has to believe, and prove, that there are, if not new stories, then new ways of telling old ones.

The collection includes 29 of these new ways of telling stories. Herein are experiments with form by David Foster Wallace and Joe Wenderoth, flawless executions of realism from Mark Richard and Jhumpa Lahiri, and stories that waver in what could most easily be described as parallel realities. The granddaddy of this latter category, George Saunders's "Sea Oak," brilliantly fuses the inherent humor of male stripping with the undead. Elsewhere Gary Lutz proves himself to be one of our foremost artists of the sentence in "People Shouldn't Have to Be the Ones to Tell You," and Christine Schutt serves up "You Drive," an elusive piece unsettling with undertones of father-daughter incest.

The varied treasures in The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories accelerate outward into new modes of American writing as if from a radiant nucleus. While each story is daring in its own right, the most daring feat of all might have been including them all under the same cover. --Ryan Boudinot

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ISBN-10:  1400034825
ISBN-13:  978-1400034826
Author:  Ben Marcus
Publisher:  Anchor
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review by . December 15, 2008
There are five absolutely terrific stories in this book:    "The Caretaker" by Anthony Doerr  "When Mr. Pirazda Came to Dine" by Jhumpa Lahiri  "Tiny, Smiling Daddy" by Mary Gaitskill  "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned" by Wells Tower  "Sea Oak" by George Saunders    Some of the contributions, although they don't fully succeed, are well worth reading:    "Gentlemen's Agreement" by Mark Roth  "Someone …
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