PEN/O.Henry 2102: Wrap-up

I found this collection started out quite badly – at one point I debated giving up, but the second story and the promise of the Table of Contents, combined with the commitment already made when I bought the book and started blogging, was enough to keep me going. And as I’ve come to learn, patience and persistence is often rewarded. Despite the rough going for five of the first six stories, it turned out to be a nice little anthology.

My favorites:

Alice Munro: “Corrie” – the second read revealed the depth of craft.

Alice Mattison: “The Vandercook” – I found a personal connection to many elements, and enjoyed the thematic realization.

Other stories I found very enjoyable:

Anthony Doerr: “The Deep” – a period piece that worked for me; then again, I have a fondness for Anthony Doerr.

Karl Taro Greenfeld: “Mickey Mouse” – another period piece, again by an author I’m predisposed to appreciate.

Miroslav Penkov “East of the West” – this had more in common with “The Restoration of the Villa Where Tibor Kalman Once Lived” by Tamas Dobozy from last year’s PEN/O.Henry than it did with Penkov’s own “A Picture with Yuki” but I can see how Penkov’s collection would require different types of stories. I found it engaging and moving, as well as informative.

Some stories took a while to figure out, but I eventually got there with a little help from the Contributor Notes or online sources:

Lauren Groff: “Eyewall” – once I got the connection between the imagery, plot, and theme, I greatly appreciated what she did here.

Salvatore Scibona: “The Woman Who Lived In The House” – I’m still not completely on board, but it’s growing on me.

And there were a few I just don’t get and felt resentful of the lost time I spent on them:

Sam Ruddick: “Leak” – I still hope someone will someday explain what Threepenny Review and Laura Furman saw in this.

Kevin Wilson: “A Birth In The Woods – I understand and appreciate the inclusion of literary horror (I hope the outstanding Bennett Sims story in the current Summer 2012 issue of Tin House, “House-Sitting,” finds its way into a future collection), but this ended up feeling like a farce.

Wendell Berry: “Nothing Living Lives Alone” – I get scolded enough in real life, I don’t need diatribes in my fiction too.

Maybe the approach to take with this volume is to read from both ends in.

And now – on to BASS 2012, expected in October.


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