Selected Shorts: Best American

I was in high school, killing time in a bookstore in Boston, when I picked up my first copy of Best American Short Stories from a table of new releases. It was Best American Short Stories 1990, edited by Richard Ford. I flipped through and started reading “River of Toys” by Edward Allen. It began like this:

“I love to walk with my eyes closed. At night, coming back to my apartment from work, there are almost no cars on the road, and I can walk and walk until I hear a car coming up behind me, or until I see through my closed eyelids the light of one coming toward me, and I open my eyes and find myself walking in the middle of Highland Avenue.”

Yes, I remember thinking. Yes, that’s exactly it.  I sat down, and I kept reading. The 1990 edition of BASS has some amazing stories: “How to Talk to a Hunter” by Pam Houston, “Car-Crash While Hitchhiking” by Denis Johnson, “You’re Ugly, Too” by Lorrie Moore, and many more. The table of contents is a who’s who of writers: Madison Smartt Bell, Richard Bausch, Alice Munro, Joan Wickersham, Joy Williams, Steven Millhauser–but it was the first time I had read any of them. I bought the book, and after I finished it I went to the library and looked up each of the writers, and then I started reading their novels and collections. I still buy Best American Short Stories every year (along with the PEN/O Henry Prize Stories). They are lined up on my shelves–a band of color–and each one has introduced me to a new voice I should be reading. Selected Shorts is another great place for introductions, and this week’s show presents two talented authors that should be on everyone’s radar: Rebecca Makkai & Julie Otsuka. “The Briefcase,” by Rebecca Makkai (included in the 2009 Best American Short Stories) is read by Victor Garber. “Diem Perdidi,” by Julie Otsuka, is read by Jayne Atkinson. To listen to the podcast or find your station, go here.