Book Review by Anna Karras
The Best American Short Stories 2022
At the close of each year since 1915, approximately twenty stories are chosen by a group of roughly 120 nominated works culled from prominent literary journals in the United States and Canada. The guest editor, along with the series editor (currently author Heidi Pitlor) work together to curate a robust and varied collection of short fiction. This work, The Best American Short Stories, is a snapshot of the work being created by today’s best and brightest literary talent. Famous guest editors include such notable authors as Joyce Carol Oats, John Updike, Margaret Atwood, and Anthony Doerr.
It's always exciting to get the new edition. I love to hold it in my hands and wonder about the content between the covers and how each year I am delighted and amazed by the talent of not just well-established authors, but the new up-and-coming writers making their debuts.
The most wonderful thing about an anthology of short stories written by multiple authors is twofold. First, one is treated to a variety of works that are so disparate, yet all hang together as a collection in the most wondrous ways. One gets a treat with each new story that unfolds. Second, one does not have to invest a huge amount of time in reading an anthology—one must simply have 15-20 minutes to indulge in a story. It’s perfect for when a reader wants to take a small dip into a fictional world, but not necessarily stay for a long time.
This year, the stories are breathtaking, mesmerizing, and unforgettable. From a woman and her children trying to escape an abusive husband and father, to the collapse of a big tech company and one woman’s attempt to stay afloat in its demise, to the whimsical yet harrowing story of an Istanbul garbage collector salvaging forbidden musical instruments and books in a dystopian future, there are instances of desperation, heart-pounding moments of truth, and ultimate glimpses of hope.
For instance, take Karen Russell’s “The Ghost Birds.” Told in the near future, a father takes his teenage daughter on a camping trip into the wastelands outside Portland, Oregon, to get a glance at the ghosts of extinct birds that used to flourish in the once-abundant forests. Their fate and their survival are tied to the presence of the ghostly flickers of the memories of a giant flock of Vaux’s swifts.
The most marvelous thing about this collection of short stories is what editor Andrew Sean Greer remarks as “how the story is told.” As a writer curating other writers, he of course is interested in the mechanics of the tales, of the new and inventive ways today’s writers of fiction are finding to tell the same old themes. Keeping this in mind as one wanders through this collection gives the reader a richer experience. And this reader is eager to recommend them to you.
∞ Editor Profile
Andrew Sean Greer is an American novelist who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2018 for his novel, Less. Greer grew up in suburban Washington D.C. and studied at Brown University and eventually earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Montana He is the author of seven works of fiction and splits his time between San Francisco and Milan.