Nov 14, 2022

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The Best American Short Stories 2020 audiobook

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Review #1

The Best American Short Stories 2020 audiobook free

I admit that so much of what happens in this collection is dependent on the tastes of the guest editor and mine being somewhat in synch but even taking that into account I must say that this years group of stories is particularly uninteresting and very poor. All but 2 of the stories here fell totally flat for me and just did not hold my interest at all. I get so very tired of the subject being crap relationships and a story peopled with neurotic self-absorbed whiny people just gets boring quickly. I like tremendous variety and I just don’t see that with this years batch. Some of the writing styles are just simply talentless and the ones that aren’t are just not compelling. I found myself while in the middle of almost every one of these stories looking ahead to see how many more pages were left before they would be over. Perhaps I am too much of a “classicist” being a huge fan of Henry James, Hawthorne, Poe, Faulkner, Alice Munro, Eudora Welty, Sommerset Maughm and Chekov to become interested in a story that just doesn’t have any good characters, dialogue or compelling conflict. Perhaps the kind of story I admire isn’t being written anymore (beginning, middle,end) but I am pretty sure that out of the 100 or so stories that were previewed by the editor here there must have been at least 4 or 5 that were outstanding. None of the stories here are what I would call “outstanding.” I look forward to this collection every Hoilday and have read them for 30 or so years and some years are better than others but this year’s was very disappointing and some of the ones selected were so poor that, quite frankly, I had to ask myself if the guest editor really was a writer herself. 2020 strikes again eh? Sorry, but I just don’t get it.


Review #2

The Best American Short Stories 2020 audiobook streamming online

I used to LOVE Best American Short Stories series and read them every year with the greatest of anticipation. I have 20+ of them. Now, I just find that I read one story after another with a sense of maybe I’ll like the next one. I get to the end and I think that was disappointing. The stories seem to be selected more for the pleasure of other writers rather than readers. For me, a story that lingers in the mind after reading is the best one. I look for reading to bring insight and a bit of something I was unaware of before. This was not going to take me there.


Review #3

Audiobook The Best American Short Stories 2020 by Curtis Sittenfeld – editor Heidi Pitlor – editor

The 20 stories were way too long. “Rubberdust,” by Sarah Thankam Mathews was a good one about elementary school kids in a Hindu culture. It was six pages and restored some faith in short stories. Otherwise, authors today leave out a denouement that wraps things up with a good ending and not the reader going “Huh?” at the end. The stories seem to lack exactness thus leaving the reader to divine some sort of metaphorical significance when there is none. Some of these authors of this book are published because they have a PhD and a professorship somewhere–some rather prestigious. If you’re a young struggling author and want have your work published, forget it unless you have a PhD because agents won’t touch you. They are like used car salespersons in which they are after repeat sales by publish-or-perish professors who make their students buy their books at exorbitant prices.

Two short stories of decades ago as examples of the genre’s lost art are William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” and “To Esme’ with Love and Squalor,” by J.D. Salinger. They are not prolix nor do they offend the reader by leaving the story in limbo.


Review #4

Audio The Best American Short Stories 2020 narrated by Brittany Pressley Cindy Kay Gabra Zackman Gary Bennett Kevin T. Collins Michael Crouch Peter Ganim Ramon de Ocampo Robert Petkoff Robin Miles Soneela Nankani Therese Plummer Tracey Leigh ; full cast William Demerritt

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed in the United States on November 7, 2020



Reviewed by C. J. Singh Wallia (Berkeley, California)


*** HEIDI PITLOR is the co-editor, since 2007, of The Best

American Short Stories (BASS) published annually. She is also the

co-editor with LORRIE MOORE of “100 Years of the Best

American Short Stories.” (See my amazon-review of this 723-page

book with Heidi Pitlor’s engaging introductions, instructive and

witty, for each decade. In my Creative Writing workshops, I

assign the big BASS book for self-learning and the current BASS for

detailed discussions.)


*** Heidi Pitlor In her three-page Foreword in BASS 2020

writes: “Inevitably, much of the world will define 2020 as the

year of the coronavirus pandemic; most of us have been

ordered to stay at home for an undefined amount of time to

slow the spread of the virus. Many independent bookstores, the

soul of the publishing industry, are shipping books and offering

virtual events. To my mind the stories that follow are

engrossing and sharp and thought provoking and beautiful.”

***In reading the BASS 2020, I was already familiar with six of the twenty

short stories: two in “The New Yorker,” two in “The Paris Review,”

one in “McSweeny’s,” one in “The Zoetrope: All Story.” After completing

my Kindle reading of the BASS 2020, I fully agree with Heidi Pitlor the twenty

stories are indeed “engrossing and sharp.” Pitlor lists (on pages 369-370) more

than 100 American and Canadian magazines from which she selects 120 stories

for the co-editor to pick the best 20. The Best American Series comprises books

on many genre: Essays, Mystery Stories,Science Fiction and Fantasy, Science and

Nature Writing, Travel Writing, and more. Having read more than a dozen BASS

annuals over as many years, may I suggest a more accurate title would be:



*** CURTIS SITTENFELD begins her nine-page Introduction: “I loved reading

these stories. I’m telling you this up front, right away, because it’s the most

important part, and because I can’t be sure you’ll read this essay in its entirety.”

(After reading her excellent essay, I plan to ask my Creative-Writing Workshop

participants to read for discussion her introduction “in its entirety,” beginning

with her experience as a graduate student in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop

in 1999.)

*** Curtis Sittenfeld’s criteria for selecting the 20 best stories from the 120

Pitlor sent her included: “A good ending — a good last paragraph can make a

story better by several magnitudes”; “A sense of humor is always a bonus with

dinner companions, so it is with short stories; ” (It’s also my preference in

creative-writing); dystopian story must not be merely dystopian — it must also

be a story.

*** Curtis Sittenfeld tells us the specific reason for each story she chose

as one of the 20 best: for example, “I loved ‘Halloween’ by Marian Crotty

because her portrayal of teenage longing and romantic tension is so real and

alive and because the grandmother is irresistible.” Sittenfeld, charmngly, begins

each selection “I loved ‘xxx’ because…”


*** ALLOW me as a reviewer of the BASS 2020 to add my brief notes on five

short stories. The particular five stories chosen by readers to comment on will,

of course, be idiosyncratically different.

*** 1. Meng Jin’s “In the Event.” In the BASS 2020 Contributors’ notes,

Meng Jin, a resident of San Francisco City, comments on her story as

“an attempt at navigating this ‘disasterscape’ and of finding inside

it a place of meaning and art.” She succeeds impressively.

My note: I’m a long-time resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, first at

Stanford, now at Berkeley. Only a few nights ago, I woke up and saw through

the eastern window of my apartment in the MarkTwainCondominiums the

entire Berkeley Hills horizon fiery red, fanned by ferocious, roaring winds. This

on top of the Bay Area residents’ perennial hazard of earth-quakes. My neighbor

muttered, “Very Scary.” “Wonderful,” I said to him loudly — he’s familiar with my

ironic humor — “Now, we have a blazing sky on top of our trembling earth.”


*** 2. Scott Nadelson’s “Liberte” is about Celine, a French medical doctor

and an acclaimed literary writer of the early twentieth century and

Louise Nevelson, a young, aspiring Jewish artist. In the 1930s, during the

Hitler era, Celine publicly urges the French to send all Jews out of France and

at the same time urges Louise to marry him and live in France as an artist.

My note: This reminded me reading about the German philosopher Martin

Heidegger at Freiburg University ousting his Jewish professor, Edmund Husserl,

the pioneer of Phenomenology and Cognitive Psychology. Heidegger, a Nazi

supporter, the father of two sons, at age 35 seduced a17-year Jewish

student, Hannah Arendt. Decades later, in America, Hannah Arendt published

her book”The Banality of Evil.”


*** 3. Sarah Thankam Mathews’ “Rubberdust” engaged me because I, like her,

grew up in India. Reading her insertions of the way some of the words are

pronounced in Indian-English sounded delightfully reminiscent. Toward the end

of her short story, she writes about Mohandas Gandhi’s talisman and the

historically factual details of his not-so-well known shortcomings. I particularly

liked Mathews’ discussion of her story in a workshop setting — “meta” writing as

noted by Sittenfeld. My current work-in-progress includes lot of meta-fiction.


*** 4. T. C. Boyle’s “The Apartment.” Replete with ironic dialogues, it

is a very engaging short story. I’m a long-time fan of his writings and have

heard him on many occasions read excerpts at various SanFrancisco Bay Area



*** 5. William Pei Shih’s “Enlightenment” engaged me for the

protagonist’s and his foil’s good intentions but weak understanding of each

other. Shih’s excellent characterization and pacing remarkably well



CONTENTS of The Best American Short Stories 2020:
Foreword ix
Introduction xii

Selena Anderson. “Godmother Tea” from “Oxford American” 1
T. C. Boyle. “The Apartment” from “McSweeny’s” 19
Jason Brown. “A Faithful but Melancholy Account”” “The Sewanee Review”3
Michael Byers. “Sibling Rivalry” from “Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet” 54
Emma Cline. “The Nanny” from “The Paris Review” 78
Marian Crotty. “Halloween” from “Crazyhorse” 94
Carolyn Ferrell. “Something Street” from “Story” 109
Mary Gaitskill. “This Is Pleasure” from “The New Yorker” 133
Meng Jin. “In the Event” from “The Three Penny Review” 168
Andrea Lee. “The Children” from “The New Yorker” 188
Sarah Thankam Mathews. Rubberdust from “Kenyon Review Online” 202
Elizabeth McCracken. “It’s Not You” from “Zoetrope: All-Story” 209
Scott Nadelson. ‘Liberte” from “Chicago Quarterly Review” 222
Leigh Newman. “Howl Palace” from “The Paris Review” 232
Jane Pek. “The Nine-Tailed Fox Explains” from “Witness” 249
Alejandro Puyana. “The Hands of Dirty Children” “American Short Fiction” 260
Anna Reeser. “Octopus V11” from “Fourteen Hills” 273
William Pei Shih. “Enlightenment” from “Virginia Quarterly Review” 289
Kevin Wilson. “Kennedy” from “Subtropics” 308
Tiphanie Yanique. “The Special World” from “The Georgia Review” 329

Contributors’ Notes 349
Other Distinguished Stories of 2019 365
American and Canadian Magazines Publishing Short Stories 369

Five gold-stars for The Best American Literary Short Stories 2020
— C. J. Singh Wallia


Review #5

Free audio The Best American Short Stories 2020 – in the audio player below

Neither loved or disliked any of the stories. Most were good for putting me to sleep at night. Now that I have finished the entire collection cant say I remember enough about any one story I could review


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