Editor Stacey Swann opens this issue of American Short Fiction with a concise, impassioned defense of the short story, relishing its unique power. The modern short story, Swann says, “contains multitudes…multiple faces, multiple forms – so many, it seems constraining to define it as a single object.” The stories chosen for this issue seem to bear out this assessment. The three lengthy stories are interspersed with brief, somewhat experimental pieces that add a great deal of spice.
“The Heart Sutra,” by Joyce Carol Oates, confronts the reader with Serena Dayinka’s dilemma. She is a poet of some renown, married to Andre Gatteau, a slightly older poet of much more renown. While she cares for their child and worries about their broken relationship, Serena fights the silence with “the terrible thought If I can’t make this man love me I will make this man hate me, I will pierce his stony heart.”
In “The Woodcarver’s Daughter,” Paul Yoon illuminates an aspect of World War II that is sometimes overlooked. Yoon tells the story of an American soldier who has gone AWOL in Japan during the American occupation of the country. The piece makes interesting and sparing use of dialogue, allowing the interiority of the characters to move things along.
The journal-keeping character in Amelia Gray’s selections from AM/PM, a larger work, addresses a character I never expected to read about. Among other observations the narrator shares: “If we mated, John Mayer Concert T, our children would have jersey-knit skin.”