Short Story Anthology Review  

New Stories from The South:  The Year's Best, 2000
edited by Shannon Ravenel
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2000
ISBN:  1-56512-295-X

This fifteenth anniversary volume holds twenty tales by twenty authors. The authors spin yarns of the South today. The tales are timeless and so Southern.

Some tales seem all too realistic, hitting close to home, while others seem fantastically, outlandish. Some authors wring our hearts; others make us laugh. All seem in the strange language of South- gentile, guttural, at times racist and violent, others beguiling. Soft or harsh, their tales speak of an experience uniquely American.

Thomas H. McNeely’s "Sheep" views the world and a sequence of events through the eyes of a disturbed and confused man. McNeely paints a convoluted story of white lightning, Texas death row, and slaughter.

In "The Circus House," Cathy Day tells the tale of a woman’s heart through years of longing against the backdrop of circus life. Subtly the author cloaks Mrs. Colonel’s loneliness in her earnest and at times hilarious attempts to provoke affection from her husband,. from the circus workers, from a young painter.

"He’s at the Office" is a breathtaking tale of a workaholic and the onset of his senility as told by his son.. The embarrassment of realizing that your father has been bit by bit forgetting his reality- names and places. How his family copes with the cruel ravages of time is pull together by Gurganus to a fitting conclusion.

A. Manette Ansay "Box" on the eve of their baby’s birth, a couple question themselves and one another’s abilities as parents, lovers, husband, wife as their marriage disintegrates. A box full of kittens comes to symbolize the uncertainty of their union.

Wendy Brenner "Mr. Puniverse" narrates a story of romance, homophobic cruelty, tingled with a paranormal electricity.  Cruel co-workers enter a reporter as a joke in the Mr. Puniverse Pageant, but a newspaper photographer sees only his strange beauty masquerading as ugliness.

Mary Helen Stefaniak "A Note to Biographers Regarding Famous Author Flannery O’Connor" tells the tale of the women in here family through their recollections of a young Flannery O’Connor. In telling their story, she is exploring her own.

Unfortunately African Americans and their peculiar existence in the South remains invisible or in the background. Coloreds, niggers, are seen in passing, remarked on, hated, ignored, but few tales truly explore this disconcerting phenomenon so American so Southern. When D. Winston Brown, in his "In the Doorway of Rhee’s Jazz Joint," expresses the inherent racism of America in the South, his characters brittle over whiskey about violent incidents. His debate is the sole one in the anthology.

The stories in this anthology share a soft, slow rhythm played strangely. Pleasant and perverted simultaneously.

Tia Blassingame
Southern Scribe Reviews

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