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Author Topic: BASS 2007  (Read 3492 times)
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canadian
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« on: January 19, 2008, 05:46:41 PM »

(The Best American Short Stories 2007, edited by Stephen King)

I’ve only got two more stories to read from this collection. Elsewhere at Doom, I mentioned that I’ve been enjoying most of the pieces so far. Here’s why: I prefer reading literary fiction above all other types of fiction. It’s not all I read (just finished Dean Koontz’s “Life Expectancy” last week – loved it; thought King’s “Lisey’s Story” was a great page-turner …) but it’s the kind of stuff that just turns my crank. Well-written literary fiction, stories/novels that take a reader into a human condition that may not be part of my experience yet manage to make it oh so real and powerful, is what makes for a satisfying read for me.

In BASS 2007, I especially enjoyed John Barth’s “Toga Party”. Even though I’m definitely not part of the well-to-do class (worried about the performance of my retirement savings … wassat, anyway?), what oozed out of that story for me was the sadness of the two main characters. Sam and Dick both dealt with growing older in different ways (Sam with wry humour, Dick with serious contemplation) but, in the end, neither of them were particularly inclined to keep living. Barth wrote this story in a chatty, easy style that completely belies the seriousness of his theme. And, man, did that ever work IMO!

There is a kinda genre piece in this book: “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves” by Karen Russell is a quirky fantasy story (not the sort I’d normally choose to read). But she managed to suck me in within a few, extremely well-written paragraphs.

I find that the publishing market these days is stuffed with work that is geared to the lowest common denominator, just like most of the programs shown on television and most of the movies in general release. It’s all so ‘surface’, easy to digest. The type of unsatisfying material that people can quickly enjoy and not have to think about half an hour later. Here … then gone. I like to read something that makes me think, makes me feel something, makes me change the way I look at the world.

Yeah, I’m weird. I even choose to watch movies with subtitles! (Check out “Bon Cop, Bad Cop” if you have a chance … it’s brilliant.) And I do think BASS 2007 was worth the $20.

I hear this collection is being dissected over at Boot Camp. Wonder what AK has to say about it?  Wink
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Geoff_N
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« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2008, 06:32:05 PM »

Sold!!!
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canadian
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« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2008, 06:49:42 PM »

Yippeee, Geoff! There's an Alice Munro piece in there that I think you'll particularly like.

Just found an interesting review of BASS 2007 online:
http://wrongquestions.blogspot.com/2007/11/best-american-short-stories-2007-edited.html

I've only started reading through it. I don't agree with some of the views Abigail has, but it's an excellent read so far. And she spends a lot of time discussing "St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves".

There's another, albeit shorter, review here:
http://www.bookslut.com/fiction/2007_11_011945.php
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Ed
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« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2008, 08:07:01 PM »

I'm tempted to send you my copy, Geoff. Though I would love to say I like the stories, I find them as suffocatingly dull as King described the ones that didn't make the cut. My failing, for sure - the literary stuff just doesn't press my buttons. I like stories with pace and action, and suspense. These stories, to me, are all 'toe gazers'. Introspective, sometimes verging on cryptic. The characters are invariably dislikeable and so far above my station in life that I don't have anything in common with their view of life, their aspirations, or their childrens' aspirations.

I'm glad you found them inspirational, Donna - you have an eye for the finer things, I think.  smiley
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« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2008, 08:14:08 PM »

I know what you're saying, Ed. Funny cos though I prefer fast action films to drawn out Jayne Eyre, Cranford, etc, I do enjoy the literary reads of writers like Julian Barnes and Saul Bellow. My main problem with literary reads is that I tend to follow them in my own writing, and it is usually criticized then as being pretentious. It's good to have ambition though, and one of mine is to craft a literary novel - even a rare one such as a literary sci fi or fantasy novel.

Geoff
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Ed
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« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2008, 08:21:36 PM »

BTW - they're all so damn long, too. The Toga Party one, by my calculations, is over ten thousand words long. I got three or four pages into it and weas already fanning the pages to see how long it was going to be grin Philistine... rolleyes
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Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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