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Where to find the best new short stories

December 28, 2008 |  3:50 pm

Shortstoryanth_1228

Taken together, two anthologies -- "The Best American Short Stories 2008" and "Pushcart Prize XXXIII: Best of the Small Presses" -- provide a guide to the best work in contemporary short fiction. Because each provides both a set of top stories and an additional list of other distinguished stories, the combined list is quite lengthy. For sure, there are gaps -- online literary magazines, science fiction and mystery all seem to be underrepresented -- but the magazines that originally published these stories are nevertheless a wonderful source of excellent fiction.

Each anthology selects the best in the year's short fiction according to its own set of rules, which may be bent when necessary. The Pushcart Prizes, a hallmark of excellence, focus on small presses -- but "The Paris Review" sneaked onto its distinguished list. The Best American Short Stories -- which might be called "North American," because it includes Canada -- has a selection from Granta, based in Cambridge, England.

The anthologies, which come from a long tradition of standalone paper issues, don't make it easy to find the included work online. So I've made a list of the venues that published the original stories. After the jump, you'll find the fiction selections in each book (the Pushcart also includes nonfiction and poetry); the huge runners-up list will come in another post. When possible, links are provided to the selected stories; P designates a Pushcart selection and BA, Best American.

If you want to read top-notch short fiction, the magazines featured in these anthologies are some terrific, and reliable, places to start. And some surprises, including an Oscar-winning director and screenwriter trying his hand at short fiction.

The American Scholar -- "North of Ordinary" by John Rolfe Gardiner (P)

Antioch Review -- "Elder Jinks" by Beth Pearlman (P), "Straightaway" by Mark Wisniewski (BA)

The Atlantic -- "Bible" by Tobias Wolff (BA), "Missionaries" by Bradford Tice (BA)

Conjunctions -- "Ave Maria" by Micaela Morrissette (P)

Crazyhorse -- "Galatea" by Karen Brown (BA)

Ecotone -- "The Year of Silence" by Kevin Brockmeier (BA)

Georgia Review -- "Powers" by Jack Driscoll (P)

Granta -- "May We Be Forgiven" by A.M. Homes (BA)

McSweeney's -- "Retreat" by Wells Tower (P)

Mississippi Review -- "North of" by Marie Bertino (P)

Missouri Review -- "Man and Wife" by Katie Chase (P and BA)

New England Review -- "Quality of Life" by Christine Sneed (BA), "Uncle" by Suzanne Rivecca (P)

New Letters -- "Progressive Dinner" by John Barth (P)

The New Yorker -- "The King of Sentences" by Jonathan Lethem (BA), "Nawabdin Electrician" by Daniyal Mueenuddin (BA), "Puppy" by George Saunders (BA)

One Story -- "Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing" by Lydia Peelle (P)

Paris Review -- "Virgins" by Danielle Evans (BA)

Ploughshares -- "Ghosts" by Charles Baxter (P), "Closely Held" by Allegra Goodman (BA)

A Public Space -- "The Heir" by Jack Livings (P)

Shenandoah -- "Scarecrow" by Betsy Boyd (P), "The Worst You Ever Feel" by Rebecca Makkai (BA)

The Southern Review -- "Rickshaw Runner" by Naomi J. Williams (P), "Buying Lenin" by Mirosalv Penkov (BA)

Threepenny Review -- "Tabriz" by Elizabeth Tallent (P), "The Epicurean" by Louis B. Jones (P)

Tin House -- "Cultivation" by Shannon Cain (P)

Virginia Quarterly Review -- "Zanzibar" by Beena Kamlani (P)

Zoetrope: All-Story -- "The Russian" by Ethan Coen (P), "Vampires in the Lemon Grove" by Karen Russell (BA)

-- Carolyn Kellogg

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