Friday, December 31, 2010

The Granta Book Of American Short Story

Anthologies are a dicey thing. You may either get some real good works and some new authors you have never heard of or if the editor is not up to the mark, you get some listless collection of works by the usual well known names. I have been lucky in this regard several times, I read Juan Rulfo the first time in one such latin american anathology. The Granta Anthology is a a collection of 44 stories written in the second half of the 20th century by American writers. Since the editor 'Richard Ford' himself is no mean short story writer, I picked this one up. I got the second volume of this anthology. The first was apparently published in 1992. Ford has added some new writers in this collection released some years ago again.
The collection has the usual suspects like Updike, Cheever, Annie proulx. Some like me, who is in India does not have immediate access to the latest emerging writers, even if I read about someone in the net or in some magazine, it is pretty difficult to get their books here. This collection also introduced to me several writers whom I have missed for so long. The writers who affected me most were 'George Saunders', 'Ann Beattie', 'Sherman Alexie' and 'Deborah Eisenberg'. The crazy thing about Ann Beattie is that, the day I purchased this book, I also saw the complete collection of Ann Beattie's works. Since I had not heard of her, I passed the book. The next time I went to the store, the book was not there. :(. This is another problem with collections, you read something by a writer and start wanting to read his/her complete works, but infuriatingly they are not available. That sucks.
The collection offers a solid cross sectional view of the American short story form and even the American society over the years, across the various geographical locations, lifestyles. There is a story by Cheever, which has it's resonance in another story written by ZZ Packer nearly 40 years later.
But I would not say it is exhaustive since for e.g. there is only 1 story by a native american (Sherman Alexie). Even afro-americans are not represented much. This is not much surprising considering whatever I have read about the subjugation of native americans and afro americans. But I would have expected a much better representation of them. There are also a couple of writers of Indian origin, 'Jhumpa Lahiri' and ' Bharathi Mukherjee', which is actually a bit surprising considering the representation of native and afro americans. I personally would not go in for reading either of their works in future, but hey, that's just me. Maybe someone with a better knowledge of the american society and literary history over the years would be able to answer this better. 

Overall this is a fulfilling collection of short stories 700 pages long . I was not disappointed totally with any of them. One of the best books that I have read in the last 2 years.


  1. Hi Ajay - Can you please write more about this book? I've been eyeing it for sometime, but unread bundles in my book shelf are not letting me to own one.



  2. Hi Giri,
    I generally do not believe in the concept of must reads.
    But if you already have some books and are thinking
    about buying this, I would highly recommend it. It has to
    be at the top of the heap for future/immediate reading.
    A wonderful opportunity to get insights into American life
    for the last 50 years and of course what can exceed
    the pleasure of encountering a really good writer for
    the first time. The volume is a veritable Indian all time cricket eleven, such is the gathering of riches here.
    The introduction by Richard Ford is a bonues, where we get an insight
    into what makes a good short story according to Ford. His choices
    are explained lucidly. We may not agree to his view, but it's a
    fascinating read in itself.
    Hope you enjoy it the same as I did.