Friday, October 1, 2010

The Pen/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009 edited by Laura Furman (GRADE: B)

I just finished The Pen/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009 edited by Laura Furman.  It is a collection of 20 short stories, the prize winners for the year 2009, written by a variety of writers of all ages and ethnicity.  This collection has both the strength and weakness of most short story collection, it is uneven; it has a few duds as well as a few gems.  I grade this collection a B.

Thousands of stories are entered in for every year for this prize and these are the 20 winners.  It is one of the most prestigious short story awards around today.  (The other one that I am familiar with is the Flannery O'Conner Award for Short Fiction but this award publishes, usually, 10 short stories by the same author, instead of a collection of authors.)

I've been reading a lot of short stories lately.  I like that I can read one in its entirety in one sitting, over one cup of coffee or hot chocolate or whatever specialty drink is available at Starbucks (I think I read one over a pumpkin latte.  Hmmmm, pumpkin latte.)

This collection, like most collection, is uneven.  Some stories don't resonate with me and I have a hard time getting through them.  Some stories are really really good.  I guess that is why I read collections so I can find these gems that I would not be able to find otherwise.  Overall, most of the stories were pretty good.

Three that caught my attention are the following:

I really really liked Twenty-two Stoires by Paul Theroux.  It is his version of a long story, short.  Each story is about a page long.  I was amazed as how much I got into one of these short stories in such a short amount of time.  It was also a great study for me on the essential elements of story.

I really liked Kind by L. E. Miller.  It is a story about forgiveness and regret and tying up loose ends.  The architecture of this story was great and I like how there was great mirroring via specific words in this story.

I also liked The House Behind a Weeping Cherry by Ha Jin.  I guess it is what the movie Pretty Woman would have been like if it wasn't far-fetched.  This is a pulpable and gritty love story about a prostitute and a man that discovers that he's in love and tries to save her.

Overall, I liked this collection.  There were more good stories than bad.  I grade this a B.

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