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The Best American Short Stories 2007    edited by Stephen King & Heidi Pitlor order for
Best American Short Stories 2007
by Stephen King
Order:  USA  Can
Houghton Mifflin, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Alex Telander

International bestselling author Stephen King takes the stage here with a different kind of performance: instead of being the creator and writer, he is the director, selected as the editor for the 2007 edition of the ever popular Best American Short Stories series. But don't pick this book up expecting blood and gore, or the sense of horror and feeling of terror felt when reading the editor's own work; in this collection, King has selected works he finds most fascinating, stories that 'make his blood curdle' in an emotional and moving way as opposed to a terrified one. Nevertheless, this collection has something to offer everyone, with twenty unique stories that were deemed the best of 2006 by Stephen King and Best American Series ongoing editor Heidi Pitlor.

King kicks off the collection with an entertaining introduction that sets the scene for his discovering these special stories: bending down, ass in the air, going through the dusty and ignored journals shelf of a big-chain bookstore in Florida, and then making his way to the surprised cashier with this mighty pile of rarely bought materials. While it is humorous, King is making the clear point here that short stories are in some ways an endangered breed, for they are not being read by many, and in most cases, simply by other writers. And yet they form a crucial stepping stone for many aspiring writers. King sets out to show to the reader that while there were a lot of mediocre stories published in 2006, there were also some great ones, appearing in this collection, showing that the art of writing short stories is still alive and well.

The 2007 collection features stories by well known authors like John Barth, T. C. Boyle, Alice Munro and Richard Russo, to name a few. There's a wide variety of subjects, satisfying every reader's taste in some way. St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves is exactly what it sounds like. There's Lauren Groff's L DeBard and Aliette: A Love Story, an enchanting and memorable Lolitaesque story about an Olympic swimmer and a young girl with polio who have a love affair against a backdrop of the 1918 flu epidemic. My Brother Eli by Joseph Epstein features a famous writer who can never accept that he has done what he set out to achieve. Or there's the wonderfully haunting Sans Farine by Jim Shepard, where the history and invention of the guillotine is revealed in gruesome detail while the French Revolution spirals out of control.

The beauty of a short story collection such as this is that with so much good material, if one is not immediately satisfied, one can just skip to the next story; and by the same token can also slowly read and savor each story. Stephen King has certainly shown that he has some interesting and appreciative reading habits, proving his job as a good editor for today's short stories. The Best American Short Stories 2007 is an ideal gift for anyone who has read all of Stephen King and wants something different, or simply loves to read books for what they are: an escape from reality into a world of the fantastic.

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