The Best American Short Stories 2004

ISBN: 0618197354
ISBN 13: 9780618197354
By: Lorrie Moore Katrina Kenison

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About this book

Since its inception in 1915, the Best American series has become the premier annual showcase for the country's finest short fiction and nonfiction. For each volume, a series editor reads pieces from hundreds of periodicals, then selects between fifty and a hundred outstanding works. That selection is pared down to twenty or so very best pieces by a guest editor who is widely recognized as a leading writer in his or her field. This unique system has helped make the Best American series the most respected -- and most popular -- of its kind. Lorrie Moore brings her keen eye for wit and surprise to the volume, and The Best American Short Stories 2004 is an eclectic and enthralling gathering of well-known voices and talented up-and-comers. Here are stories that probe the biggest issues: ambition, gender, romance, war. Here are funny and touching and striking tales of a Spokane Indian, the estranged wife of an Iranian immigrant, an American tutor in Bombay. In her introduction Lorrie Moore writes, "The stories collected here impressed me with their depth of knowledge and feeling of character, setting, and situation . . . They spoke with amused intelligence, compassion, and dispassion."

Reader's Thoughts


I typically read speculative fiction. That is, stories centered on characters in extraordinary situations, the times or the technology used to illustrate either the macroscopic view of humanity as a cynical waste or an affirming animal, or focused pieces that highlight the power of family, friendship,and the perils of temptation, set against myriad backdrops of technology and the supernatural. Literary fiction is much the same, save that it removes the technology and supernatural, and places things in the real world, where the writer's imagination is limited by the concrete. This both gives the writer room to expand on character and limits the availability of plots. That being said, this particular collection focuses a lot on character pieces. Nearly every story has a lot of room taken up by exposition, flashbacks that highlight character traits and motives while taking time, sweet, lengthy time, with the plot. All of the stories take the microscopic road, analyzing character against dysfunctional family, loss (both physical and emotional), loneliness, and nostalgia. It has its highlights and lowlights, but the collection as a whole, while superior in story quality (this is, after all, the BEST short fiction) fails to deliver enough story diversity, choosing to play it safe and present yarns that are, for the most part, safe choices that become repetitive in style the further one reads.Lowlights: "Limestone Diner"-An abundance of overwhelming, colorful, fruity, fizzy, describingful adjectives. "Some Other, Better Otto"-Sharon and Portia are fantastic characters, the most interesting by far. And they are physically present in this bloated tale of family dysfunction for maybe a fifth of its length. Honorable mention: William"Written in Stone"-Let's all reflect on a broken marriage for a while and have some food. Highlights:"Tooth and Claw"-An offbeat tale by the king of offbeat literary writers, T.C. Boyle, about a lovesick loner who wins a serval in a game of dice"All Saint's Day"-A story about an exorcism, and the power of the human will as demonstrated by precocious children. The most surprising story in the bunch. What You Pawn I Will Redeem-Sherman Alexie rocks. Docent-A tour (literally) through the Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University. The most experimental story (narratively speaking) of the bunch.The Walk With Elizanne-John Updike's story of reflection on the innocence of youth and the realities of age will make you giddy for your memories and excited at the prospect of relationships as they evolve throughout the decades.


(before reading)Something I recently posted on a writing forum had been compared to an author that shows up in this collection. Naturally, I looked said author up and grabbed the first thing I could get my hands on with a sample of his writing. This should be interesting... (after reading)I'm not mentioning any names after reading this, but I don't see the comparison. After that comparison I like comparisons even less.Regarding the collection: Eh... The title seems a bit of a misnomer. To clarify—this is a collection of short stories that seems more like a collection of character developments that all wound up being very close to stories. Not all of them, mind you, but a large percentage. Just to stay honest, there are a few good stories here.If you're looking for a good example of character development, look no further.


Ugh. Sometimes I think the series' editor isn't even trying anymore.


I wish I could say that Best 2004 took so long to read because I was savoring each story, but not so much. Of the twenty stories in the anthology, I would say I liked about half of them. That makes it the most disappointing of these collections that I have read (I’d read five of them before this one).I like reading stories from newly discovered authors, but the strongest stories this year came from seasoned storywriters – Alice Munro, Annie Proulx, and John Updike. Many of the other stories were instantly forgettable. I think one of the reasons that it took so long to get through the collection was the fact that many stories didn’t make me want to take the book out whenever I could squeeze some reading in. Instead, the book stayed in my briefcase and was only read while I was on the train.

Joyce Sigler

Short stories are my favorite! Bought this one because of the exceptional list of authors. It will not disappoint you!

Aaron Goodier

I had to read this for a fiction writing class, and I thought that was so bogus.


Love this series and I'll get it every year.


There are some excellent stories in this collection. Some I like better than others, but all are wonderful reading. Nice way to sample the short stories published in a year. I may have to start picking these up every year.


Stories I especially liked:A Rich Man by Edward P. JonesIntervention by Jill McCorkleRunaway by Alice MunroWhat You Pawn I will Redeem by Sherman AlexieWritten in Stone by Catherine BradyAccomplice by Sarah Shun-Lien BynumScreenwriter by Charles D’AmbrosioThe Tutor by Nell Freudenberger


While reviewing every story in this anthology would be beyond the limits of my attention span, the 2004 edtion contains my favorite story by Sherman Alexie, ¨I Will Redeem What You Pawn,¨ I believe is the title.While I´ve long been an admirer of Alexie´s writing, I haven´t ever much liked Alexie as a person; a lot of a person´s attitudes about life come through in their writing, and while I appreciate Alexie´s fearlessness, wry, ironic humor, and compassion for native peoples living in the modern world, his writing has always lacked that more general compassion for people, all people, as twisted and damaged as we are. This story changed my mind about that. Such genuine warmth for Seattle, all the people in Seattle, and just people in general, shone through in this story. I was living in Seattle myself when I read this story, and I also love the city, and I suddenly found myself relating to Alexie as a person as I read this story.


I am an enthusiast when it comes to the "Best American..." series.The problem is at this point I am getting confused as to which I have read or not, they look so close to the same!My request? An added little icon in the corner of each cover helping me distinguish, a fuzzy bee or a winter tree even an angry baby face, anything would help!I have also started delving into the Essays and Travel Writing collections...


Though they tend to be overly long, these stories are good enough that I kept teaching this edition until 2012, when it was no longer available.

Saayed Alam

Only read What You Pawn I Will Redeem and its beautiful

Lisa R.

I love Lorrie Moore and I love her taste in short stories. Witty, dry, subtly heartbreaking. Loved almost all of 'em.


I like short stories and these are always worth reading.

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