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A definitive collection of the very best short stories by contemporary American masters Edited by Joyce Carol Oates, "the living master of the short story" ("Buffalo News"), and Christopher R. Beha, this volume provides an important overview of the contemporary short story and a selection of the very best that American short fiction has to offer. Contents: The toughest Indian A definitive collection of the very best short stories by contemporary American masters Edited by Joyce Carol Oates, "the living master of the short story" ("Buffalo News"), and Christopher R. Beha, this volume provides an important overview of the contemporary short story and a selection of the very best that American short fiction has to offer. Contents: The toughest Indian in the world by Sherman Alexie Lobster night by Russell Banks The hermit's story by Rick Bass 1-900 by Richard Bausch Poor devil by Charles Baxter Lavande by Ann Beattie O. by Aimee Bender Mercy by Pinckney Benedict The love of my life by T.C. Boyle The identity club by Richard Burgin The son of the wolfman by Michael Chabon Night women by Edwidge Danticat Television by Lydia Davis Aurora by Junot Díaz A house on the Plains by E.L. Doctorow Death of the right fielder by Stuart Dybek The girl who left her sock on the floor by Deborah Eisenberg Disaster stamps of Pluto by Louise Erdrich Reunion by Richard Ford Rêve haitien by Ben Fountain The girl on the plane by Mary Gaitskill The paperhanger by William Gay City visit by Adam Haslett To those of you who missed your connecting flights out of O'Hare by Amy Hempel Emergency by Denis Johnson Double exposure by Greg Johnson Old boys, old girls by Edward P. Jones Adina, Astrid, Chipewee, Jasmine by Matthew Klam Baboons by Sheila Kohler Once in a lifetime by Jhumpa Lahiri Some terpsichore by Elizabeth McCracken Cowboy by Thomas McGuane Sault Ste. Marie by David Means Ranch girl by Maile Meloy The new automaton theater by Steven Millhauser Paper losses by Lorrie Moore Stitches by Antonya Nelson Land. ll by Joyce Carol Oates On the rainy river by Tim O'Brien The escort by Chuck Palahniuk People in hell just want a drink of water by Annie Proulx The red bow by George Saunders Leslie and Sam by Douglas Unger The brown chest by John Updike Incarnations of burned children by David Foster Wallace Cinnamon skin by Edmund White Who invented the jump shot by John Edgar Wideman Bullet in the brain by Tobias Wol


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A definitive collection of the very best short stories by contemporary American masters Edited by Joyce Carol Oates, "the living master of the short story" ("Buffalo News"), and Christopher R. Beha, this volume provides an important overview of the contemporary short story and a selection of the very best that American short fiction has to offer. Contents: The toughest Indian A definitive collection of the very best short stories by contemporary American masters Edited by Joyce Carol Oates, "the living master of the short story" ("Buffalo News"), and Christopher R. Beha, this volume provides an important overview of the contemporary short story and a selection of the very best that American short fiction has to offer. Contents: The toughest Indian in the world by Sherman Alexie Lobster night by Russell Banks The hermit's story by Rick Bass 1-900 by Richard Bausch Poor devil by Charles Baxter Lavande by Ann Beattie O. by Aimee Bender Mercy by Pinckney Benedict The love of my life by T.C. Boyle The identity club by Richard Burgin The son of the wolfman by Michael Chabon Night women by Edwidge Danticat Television by Lydia Davis Aurora by Junot Díaz A house on the Plains by E.L. Doctorow Death of the right fielder by Stuart Dybek The girl who left her sock on the floor by Deborah Eisenberg Disaster stamps of Pluto by Louise Erdrich Reunion by Richard Ford Rêve haitien by Ben Fountain The girl on the plane by Mary Gaitskill The paperhanger by William Gay City visit by Adam Haslett To those of you who missed your connecting flights out of O'Hare by Amy Hempel Emergency by Denis Johnson Double exposure by Greg Johnson Old boys, old girls by Edward P. Jones Adina, Astrid, Chipewee, Jasmine by Matthew Klam Baboons by Sheila Kohler Once in a lifetime by Jhumpa Lahiri Some terpsichore by Elizabeth McCracken Cowboy by Thomas McGuane Sault Ste. Marie by David Means Ranch girl by Maile Meloy The new automaton theater by Steven Millhauser Paper losses by Lorrie Moore Stitches by Antonya Nelson Land. ll by Joyce Carol Oates On the rainy river by Tim O'Brien The escort by Chuck Palahniuk People in hell just want a drink of water by Annie Proulx The red bow by George Saunders Leslie and Sam by Douglas Unger The brown chest by John Updike Incarnations of burned children by David Foster Wallace Cinnamon skin by Edmund White Who invented the jump shot by John Edgar Wideman Bullet in the brain by Tobias Wol

30 review for The Ecco Anthology of Contemporary American Short Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Victoria (Victoria's Reading Pantry)

    The common thread running through the reviews of this book are that it's too dark and grisly. All I can say is, perhaps that's why I enjoyed reading it so much. The common thread running through the reviews of this book are that it's too dark and grisly. All I can say is, perhaps that's why I enjoyed reading it so much.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    There's definitely a lot of amazing writers in this anthology, and it could've been a great gateway to get more readers interested in contemporary short stories, but their choice of Joyce Carol Oates (who has very dark sensibilities) as an editor makes this collection wallow way too much in disturbing subject matter. Almost every story involves some kind of grisly murder, or rape, or even babies in dumpsters. Not that there weren't some highlights: "Some Terpsichore" by Elizabeth McCracken was on There's definitely a lot of amazing writers in this anthology, and it could've been a great gateway to get more readers interested in contemporary short stories, but their choice of Joyce Carol Oates (who has very dark sensibilities) as an editor makes this collection wallow way too much in disturbing subject matter. Almost every story involves some kind of grisly murder, or rape, or even babies in dumpsters. Not that there weren't some highlights: "Some Terpsichore" by Elizabeth McCracken was one of the best stories I've ever read. I was also impressed by "The Girl on the Plane" by Mary Gaitskill, "Paper Losses" by Lorrie Moore (a new story to me, by one of my favorite authors), and "On The Rainy River" by Tim O'Brien. There were also some old favorites it was nice to read again: "The Red Bow" by George Saunders and "Once in a Lifetime" by Jhumpa Lahiri. But unfortunately that's only 6 stories, out of 48... I have a feeling this collection will turn away more would-be readers than it attracts.

  3. 4 out of 5

    H

    What a monster! This anthology had plenty of amazing stories, and a few not so amazing ones (some of which I skipped). I anticipate that I will have my students read "The Toughest Indian in the World" by Sherman Alexia, "The Hermit's Story" by Rick Bass, "Off" by Aimee Bender, "Son of the Wolfman" by Michael Chabon, "Night Women" by Edwidge Danticat, "Aurora" by Junot Diaz, "Disaster Stamps of Pluto" by Louise Erdrich, "Old Boys, Old Girls" by Edward P. Jones, "Once in a Lifetime" by Jhumpa Lahi What a monster! This anthology had plenty of amazing stories, and a few not so amazing ones (some of which I skipped). I anticipate that I will have my students read "The Toughest Indian in the World" by Sherman Alexia, "The Hermit's Story" by Rick Bass, "Off" by Aimee Bender, "Son of the Wolfman" by Michael Chabon, "Night Women" by Edwidge Danticat, "Aurora" by Junot Diaz, "Disaster Stamps of Pluto" by Louise Erdrich, "Old Boys, Old Girls" by Edward P. Jones, "Once in a Lifetime" by Jhumpa Lahiri, "Cowboy" by Thomas McGuane, "Sault Ste. Marieb" by David Means, "People in Hell Just Want a Drink of Water" by Annie Proulx, "Incarnations of Burned Children" by David Foster Wallace. I also plan to supplement with "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien, as this anthology has his story "On the Rainy River," which is good, but loses some of its value when taken out of the context of the entire book, The Things They Carried.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    If every Aimee Bender story were as great as Off, I'd go live in her home. Very creepy to read Mary Gaitskill gang rape story I swear I remember reading many years ago on a plane, like in Esquire or something, then being permanently traumatized. Did not realize it was written by a woman, and certainly no idea who Gaitskill was at that time. First thing I've read by Jhumpa Lahiri and liked it. Cannot read fiction about immigrant groups with cuisine I like though, since it makes me too hungry when t If every Aimee Bender story were as great as Off, I'd go live in her home. Very creepy to read Mary Gaitskill gang rape story I swear I remember reading many years ago on a plane, like in Esquire or something, then being permanently traumatized. Did not realize it was written by a woman, and certainly no idea who Gaitskill was at that time. First thing I've read by Jhumpa Lahiri and liked it. Cannot read fiction about immigrant groups with cuisine I like though, since it makes me too hungry when they describe the food. George Saunders = really? Is this what all the fuss is about? Must read more. Both stories I've read now by Edward P. Jones I've really loved certain aspects of, but both had, I thought, disappointing endings and some big problems (e.g. good v. evil; saint complex). Will read more though because there are some v special qualities I like.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    As with any anthology, there are good stories and bad stories. Some reached me in a visceral way, others left me flat. But the main thing I took away from this collection is the stagnant sameness of contemporary literary fiction. As a reader, I crave fiction that is daring. Fiction the plays with form and themes. While there is some evidence of that here, I ended with the overall impression of a ton of first person narratives, a lot of pretentious, repellant, or otherwise uninteresting protagoni As with any anthology, there are good stories and bad stories. Some reached me in a visceral way, others left me flat. But the main thing I took away from this collection is the stagnant sameness of contemporary literary fiction. As a reader, I crave fiction that is daring. Fiction the plays with form and themes. While there is some evidence of that here, I ended with the overall impression of a ton of first person narratives, a lot of pretentious, repellant, or otherwise uninteresting protagonists, and the same themes repeated over and over again. I'd only read two of the thirty eight stories before picking up the collection (the Denis Johnson and the O'Brien), but I felt like I'd seen many of them before. Maybe I'm being too jaded and cynical. Maybe I'm just tired of short form fiction. I don't know. But I hoped I'd like this collection a lot more than I ultimately did.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    I read another review that said you can tell these stories were selected by Joyce Carole Oates, and I completely agree. A good chunk of the stories are about death/murder/rape/other depressing/disturbing things like that, and that really strikes me as JCO's style. There is some pretty good stuff in here...but then there's other stories that I wondered why they were chosen. Those I particularly liked were "Lavande," "Off," "A House on the Plains," "To Those of You Who Missed Your Connecting Fligh I read another review that said you can tell these stories were selected by Joyce Carole Oates, and I completely agree. A good chunk of the stories are about death/murder/rape/other depressing/disturbing things like that, and that really strikes me as JCO's style. There is some pretty good stuff in here...but then there's other stories that I wondered why they were chosen. Those I particularly liked were "Lavande," "Off," "A House on the Plains," "To Those of You Who Missed Your Connecting Flights Out Of O'Hare" (mainly because I can completely identify), "Once in a Lifetime" (I like anything Jhumpa Lahiri writes), "People In Hell Just Want a Drink of Water," and "Bullet in the Brain." This loses a star because the stories were selected by Joyce Carole Oates and she selected one of her own stories. Really?!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kayla

    An excellent short fiction collection. There are is a huge selection of varied, talented, interesting writers contained in this book. I only disliked one ("Double Exposure" by Greg Johnson) but I enjoyed all of the rest of the stories featured in this volume. Ten of them I thought were especially phenomenal, including Michael Chabon's "Son of the Wolfman", "Disaster Stamps of Pluto" by Louise Erdrich, and Elizabeth McCracken's "Some Terpsichore." I would recommend this book to anyone, whether yo An excellent short fiction collection. There are is a huge selection of varied, talented, interesting writers contained in this book. I only disliked one ("Double Exposure" by Greg Johnson) but I enjoyed all of the rest of the stories featured in this volume. Ten of them I thought were especially phenomenal, including Michael Chabon's "Son of the Wolfman", "Disaster Stamps of Pluto" by Louise Erdrich, and Elizabeth McCracken's "Some Terpsichore." I would recommend this book to anyone, whether you have read a significant amount of short fiction or you are just beginning to explore. I will say that it's fairly obvious Joyce Carol Oates' tastes run toward the unsettling, but frankly that suited me just fine.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Stacey

    Of the 48 stories in this collection selected by Joyce Carol Oates, 7 are fabulous (those by Bausch, Danticat, Davis, Doctorow, Erdrich, Johnson and Lahiri). Oates selected these stories because they were published in the 21st century, and because they represent the "variety" of the genre, including "abrupt and edgy" openings and traditional stories, beautifully written. She says that despite the lack of experimentation (though DFW is included here), all of the fiction is "unsettling". I would ha Of the 48 stories in this collection selected by Joyce Carol Oates, 7 are fabulous (those by Bausch, Danticat, Davis, Doctorow, Erdrich, Johnson and Lahiri). Oates selected these stories because they were published in the 21st century, and because they represent the "variety" of the genre, including "abrupt and edgy" openings and traditional stories, beautifully written. She says that despite the lack of experimentation (though DFW is included here), all of the fiction is "unsettling". I would have preferred a collection with such a list of authors, almost all published in big magazines, or award winners, to have included a more in depth analysis of what makes these stories so representative that they win awards and get published.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin

    This has a lot of great stories from (mostly) currently working American authors. It's nice to have a compilation of people who aren't dead yet, and are actually writing about the world we live in. The range of the pieces is pretty broad though, so some doozies ended up in the book (like a story that takes place entirely via a 900 number call, which obviously feels dated, and isn't that good), but on the whole, this is a great anthology. It's also a good way to get used to short stories, since m This has a lot of great stories from (mostly) currently working American authors. It's nice to have a compilation of people who aren't dead yet, and are actually writing about the world we live in. The range of the pieces is pretty broad though, so some doozies ended up in the book (like a story that takes place entirely via a 900 number call, which obviously feels dated, and isn't that good), but on the whole, this is a great anthology. It's also a good way to get used to short stories, since most of us don't really read too many, and usually only "classics" in school, which makes the whole form seem out of date. It's not.

  10. 5 out of 5

    David

    Finally made it through this 750-page fatty. Some wonderful stuff in here, of course. Richard Bausch's "1-900" was hilarious; Ann Beattie's "Lavande" and E.L. Doctorow's "A House on the Plains" reminded me how fantastic those two writers can be. The latter was my favorite story in the book until I hit Lorrie Moore's "Paper Losses" -- nobody does funny/sad Lorrie Moore. Annie Proulx's "People In Hell Just Want a Drink of Water" was terrific, too. Hmm. Interesting that all but one of those writers Finally made it through this 750-page fatty. Some wonderful stuff in here, of course. Richard Bausch's "1-900" was hilarious; Ann Beattie's "Lavande" and E.L. Doctorow's "A House on the Plains" reminded me how fantastic those two writers can be. The latter was my favorite story in the book until I hit Lorrie Moore's "Paper Losses" -- nobody does funny/sad Lorrie Moore. Annie Proulx's "People In Hell Just Want a Drink of Water" was terrific, too. Hmm. Interesting that all but one of those writers are females. And Alice Munro couldn't even be in this collection, since she's a Canuck. Are women better short story writers? Mebbe so.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    I like anthologies: their heft and their variety. For the most part, I like this anthology; among my favorite selections are E.L. Doctorow's "A House on the Plains," William Gay's "The Paperhanger," and Joyce Carol Oates' "Landfill" (which one should not read before bed, as I did, should one want to avoid nightmares of being killed in a trash compacter). A few selections puzzled me - the stories selected to represent Amy Hempel, Lydia Davis, Lorrie Moore, and Aimee Bender are not what I consider I like anthologies: their heft and their variety. For the most part, I like this anthology; among my favorite selections are E.L. Doctorow's "A House on the Plains," William Gay's "The Paperhanger," and Joyce Carol Oates' "Landfill" (which one should not read before bed, as I did, should one want to avoid nightmares of being killed in a trash compacter). A few selections puzzled me - the stories selected to represent Amy Hempel, Lydia Davis, Lorrie Moore, and Aimee Bender are not what I consider these authors' best works: not by a long shot. But, on the whole, a solid collection.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    I am not a Joyce Carol Oates fan, so was worried (and rightly so) about an anthology of stories that she had selected. To me, Oates is heavy handed, looks at the world from a morbid and sinister perspective, and always goes for the tawdry and degrading detail. Unfortunately, that is also true of most of the work she collected here. Besides the stories by Lorrie Moore and Antonya Nelson, which I will always happily read, the only two I really liked were Ranch Girl by Maile Meloy and Bullet in the I am not a Joyce Carol Oates fan, so was worried (and rightly so) about an anthology of stories that she had selected. To me, Oates is heavy handed, looks at the world from a morbid and sinister perspective, and always goes for the tawdry and degrading detail. Unfortunately, that is also true of most of the work she collected here. Besides the stories by Lorrie Moore and Antonya Nelson, which I will always happily read, the only two I really liked were Ranch Girl by Maile Meloy and Bullet in the Brain by Tobias Wolff.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marc Kohlman

    Wonderfully written short stories. Lovers of contemporary American short fiction and aspiring writers will love the ones in this book. I used this book for my Creative Writing: Fiction class last year and I really enjoyed examining different authors writing styles. The stories I read for my class were great and helped me in writing some of my own work, drafting out plots, and creating characters. The stories in this book are some of the most masterful pieces of short fiction I have ever read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kellie

    SO much fun- highly recommend. I haven't had such a good time reading in years. It was wonderful to get a fairly large sample of authors through this book- I have a tendency to stick with the same authors and genres for long periods, but after reading this I have so many "can't wait to reads" to look forward to. SO much fun- highly recommend. I haven't had such a good time reading in years. It was wonderful to get a fairly large sample of authors through this book- I have a tendency to stick with the same authors and genres for long periods, but after reading this I have so many "can't wait to reads" to look forward to.

  15. 4 out of 5

    C. Woolf

    I agree with some of the other reviews: there's a lot of dark material in this collection. But I enjoyed many stories including "The Hermit's Story" by Rick Bass, "Mercy" by Pickney Benedict, "A House on the Plains" by E.L. Doctorow, "Cowboy" by Thomas McGuane, and "Leslie and Sam" by Douglas Unger. I agree with some of the other reviews: there's a lot of dark material in this collection. But I enjoyed many stories including "The Hermit's Story" by Rick Bass, "Mercy" by Pickney Benedict, "A House on the Plains" by E.L. Doctorow, "Cowboy" by Thomas McGuane, and "Leslie and Sam" by Douglas Unger.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mae

    pretty amazing collection but weirdly dark, does every marriage have to be awful, and every kid killed or scarred in some way? also there are at least two Mac grads included (Tim O'Brien and Charles Baxter) and lots of MN references. pretty amazing collection but weirdly dark, does every marriage have to be awful, and every kid killed or scarred in some way? also there are at least two Mac grads included (Tim O'Brien and Charles Baxter) and lots of MN references.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    Well, I finished it - the first story is actually probably my favorite, or at least way up there. Lots of really great ones. JCO is a subtle person. I think she's spent her life sexually repressed too! ;) Well, I finished it - the first story is actually probably my favorite, or at least way up there. Lots of really great ones. JCO is a subtle person. I think she's spent her life sexually repressed too! ;)

  18. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Worth reading, each successive story linked to the one before it with a theme, idea, or obscure word, and I discovered some great authors that I didn't know about. There is, however, a glut of graphic descriptions of gay sex and pregnancy, most of which made them both seem exceptionally unpleasant Worth reading, each successive story linked to the one before it with a theme, idea, or obscure word, and I discovered some great authors that I didn't know about. There is, however, a glut of graphic descriptions of gay sex and pregnancy, most of which made them both seem exceptionally unpleasant

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gavin P

    The curatorial touch of Ms. Oates leans heavily on the darker side of things. Some disturbing stories in this collection, but a great range of American lit. Nice primer for those looking to delve deeper into short stories.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Heather Gibbons

    My new favorite anthology for teaching beginning fiction writing. Great range.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Fantastic collection.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Em

    I will continue to go back to this book. Great selection.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Harley

    Best story so far is "The Hermit's Story" by Rick Bass. Also a great Ann Beattie story called "Lavande." Only 9 stories into the 48 in the book. Best story so far is "The Hermit's Story" by Rick Bass. Also a great Ann Beattie story called "Lavande." Only 9 stories into the 48 in the book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Ugh. This just increased my mental to-read list by a million. If anything, read "Off" by Aimee Bender. Best opening two sentences ever. Ugh. This just increased my mental to-read list by a million. If anything, read "Off" by Aimee Bender. Best opening two sentences ever.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jocelyn

    Doctorow and Rick Bass stories are standouts among an excellent collection.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cid Mcdonald

    Some great stories, some good stories and some not so good or great stories. A good selection overall.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Mcilhenny

    the kind of book that makes you want to scribble pretentious things in the margins, even if the stories themselves weren't too good the kind of book that makes you want to scribble pretentious things in the margins, even if the stories themselves weren't too good

  28. 4 out of 5

    Robert Rozier

    I LOVED this book!!!!!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ronald Wise

    A collection of short stories that tend to focus on the darker side of human existence, be it paradise turned sour, bad people in action, or gross situations that can’t be avoided. I found more than a third of these pieces to be excellent new additions to my experience of short fiction. Newly discovered gems in this anthology were: “Lobster Night” by Russell Banks; “1-900” by Richard Bausch; “Poor Devil” by Charles Baxter; “The Love of My Life” by T. Coreghessan Boyle; “Son of Wolfman” by Michael A collection of short stories that tend to focus on the darker side of human existence, be it paradise turned sour, bad people in action, or gross situations that can’t be avoided. I found more than a third of these pieces to be excellent new additions to my experience of short fiction. Newly discovered gems in this anthology were: “Lobster Night” by Russell Banks; “1-900” by Richard Bausch; “Poor Devil” by Charles Baxter; “The Love of My Life” by T. Coreghessan Boyle; “Son of Wolfman” by Michael Chabon; “A House on the Plains” by E. L. Doctorow; “Rêve Haitien” by Ben Fountain; “The Girl on the Plane” by Mary Gaitskill; “Old Boys, Old Girls” by Edward P. Jones; “Adina, Astrid, Chipewee, Jasmine” by Matthew Klam; “Baboons” by Sheila Kohler; “The New Automaton Theater” by Steve Millhauser; “Paper Losses” by Lorrie Moore; “Landfill” by Joyce Carol Oates; “On the Rainy River” by Tim O’Brien; “The Red Bow” by George Saunders; “Leslie and Sam” by Douglas Unger; and “Incarnations of Burned Children” by David Foster Wallace.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Grim collection by American lady of letters and editor, as entertaining as disturbing. People mired in impossible situations and luck has run out. In Oates’ grisly contribution, a fraternity, young, pledger lands, drunkenly, in garbage chute, to be killed by trash compactor. Optimist, isn’t it? Other stories show marriage or relationships go sour, with no option to save helpless couple. Sexual trysts are awkward and unpromising and love thwarted by realistic arrival of newborn baby. Every story Grim collection by American lady of letters and editor, as entertaining as disturbing. People mired in impossible situations and luck has run out. In Oates’ grisly contribution, a fraternity, young, pledger lands, drunkenly, in garbage chute, to be killed by trash compactor. Optimist, isn’t it? Other stories show marriage or relationships go sour, with no option to save helpless couple. Sexual trysts are awkward and unpromising and love thwarted by realistic arrival of newborn baby. Every story a gem of lost dreams and hopes. Protagonists choose unusual ways, dealing with predicaments of live and let live or live and let die.

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