BASS and BANR 2005

The Best American Short Stories, which this year is guest-edited by Michael Chabon, hits stores in just about three weeks. In his introduction to the twenty stories he selected, Chabon makes a case for reclaiming the notion of entertainment. Too often, he says, artists tend to think that it debases their art to entertain.

Yet entertainment–as I define it, pleasure and all–remains the only sure means we have of bridging, or at least of feeling as if we have bridged, the gulf of consciousness that separates each of us from everybody else. The best response to those who would cheapen and exploit it is not to disparage or repudiate but to reclaim entertainment as a job fit for artists and for audiences, a two-way exchange of attention, experience, and the universal hunger for connection.

And so, he says, he picked the twenty stories that “pleased him best.” They include work by Dennis Lehane, Kelly Link, Charles D’Ambrosio, Edward P. Jones, George Saunders, and others.

Also out in three weeks is The Best American Nonrequired Reading, edited by Dave Eggers, and with an introduction by Beck. I know it’s fashionable to knock Eggers, but I am probably one of only 3 people left in this country who is indifferent to him. I haven’t read his memoir, though I’ve read some of his short work, and I can’t seem to get worked up enough about any of the things that seem to enthrall or antagonize so many people. But I’ve always liked BANR; it’s different, it mixes things up a bit; and it always surprises me.

At any rate, I was happy to see Eggers had selected one of my absolute favorites from the past year: George Saunders’ “Manifesto,” which appeared in Slate. (There you have it: I like an anthology because it reflects my idiosyncratic taste.) Other selections include stories by Daniel Alarcón, Rattawut Lapcharoensap, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Aimee Bender. Look for it starting October 5.