April 16, 2011

The Best American Short Stories 2010
Edited by Richard Russo and Heidi Pitlor

Conciseness Counts – This series is always a good read and the 2010 edition features some powerful writing – and advice. In his introduction, Richard Russo tells the story of Issac Bashevis Singer visiting Southern Illinois University in the late 1980s and offering a simple, yet profound answer to a student’s question about the purpose of literature. “The purpose of literature,” the master explains, “is to entertain and to instruct.” When the great man says no more and is pushed to elaborate – who among us has not believed it’s far more involved, certainly more complicated than that? – Singer holds up his hand. “To entertain …,” Russo quotes the old pro, “… and to instruct.” The stories that follow demonstrate the point. A standout among them is Jennifer Egan’s “Safari,” which originally appeared in The New Yorker. The ending of Egan’s story is a potent example of the power of compression.


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