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Some chose classics. Some chose stories that were new even to us. Our hope is that this collection will be useful to young writers, and to others interested in literary technique. Most of all, it is intended for readers who are not (or are no longer) in the habit of reading short stories. We hope these object lessons will remind them how varied the form can be, how vital it remains, and how much pleasure it can give.
And Publishers Weekly says:
A selection of fiction culled from the influential journal’s archive with a twist: writers often featured in the journal’s pages—Lorrie Moore, David Means, Ann Beattie, Wells Tower, Ali Smith, among others— offer brief critical analyses of their selections, elevating this book from a greatest hits anthology to a kind of mini-M.F.A. Sam Lipsyte’s take on Mary Robison’s “Likely Lake” is as much a demonstration of the economy of powerful writing as the story itself and Ben Marcus’s tribute to Donald Barthelme’s “magician… language” in “Several Garlic Tales” illustrates how learning can occur when one writer inhabits another writer’s mind to geek out over what they both love.
Monologue topics: certainty, uncertainty, strong thinkers, certainty about uncertainty, uncertainty about certainty, the articulation of confusion, a posture of cosmic ambivalence.