Friday, September 2, 2011

Best American Stories 1986 – Completed!

Goodbye to the Best American Stories 1986

Some numbers –

To read and report on these stories it took me 5 months and 1 day.

That also works out to:

22 weeks


154 days


110 weekdays.

While we are looking at numbers, I’ll dial it back a bit and see where we are with this little BASS project.

My first post dropped on:

May 29th 2008.

That was –

3 years 3 months and 4 days ago. I can’t even begin to tell you how my life has changed since then.

1191 days. Pffffffff….long sigh.

How many of these volumes have I read and reported on in 3 years, 3 months and 4 days?


Some more numbers? Well, it looks like I spent about 4.3 months per volume. To be more exact, 132.33 days per volume.

I think it goes without saying that I need to speed things up.

Let me now discuss my thoughts on this volume.

The introduction can be found here:

If you haven’t read the intro – please do, I’m actually proud of that post!

Here are a few words from that introduction.

I highlighted this from Carver’s intro:

“Stories from the New Yorker predominated, and that is as it should be. The New Yorker not only publishes good stories – on occasion wonderful stories – but, by virtue of the fact that they publish every week, fifty-two weeks a year, they bring out more fiction than any other magazine in the country.”

Well, I have discovered a new love for The New Yorker and that love has partially been the reason why I have failed to read stories from this volume. I’ve been too distracted by that magazine AND with working on a database that already existed AND attempting to buy, and eventually succeeding in buying a nice 3 volume set of collected short stories from that magazine.

There were 20 stories in this volume – 3 were from the New Yorker. See previous indexes from past BASS collections and you’ll see the NY’er dominating the collected stories!

Carver goes on to say

“One of the things I feel strongly about is that while short stories often tell us things we don’t know anything about – and this is good, of course – they should also, and maybe more importantly, tell us what everybody knows but what nobody is talking about. At least not publicly. Except for the short story writers.”

Yes – perfect. I’d say there were more than a couple of stories in this collection that did just that. They told us what everybody know but what nobody is /was talking about. The stories were wonderful – the majority of his selections.


“I deliberately tried to pick stories that rendered, in a more or less straightforward manner, what it’s like out there. I wanted the stories I selected to throw some light on what it is that makes us and keeps us, often against great odds, recognizably human.”

I mentioned in several of my posts the above quote. Carver succeeded.

So how do I feel about Carver’s collection?

Well, I feel that I did the volume a disservice. I took too long to read it and I didn’t fully commit my heart and mind to the project. I gave about 50%.

That, in short, is unsatisfactory.

Therefore, I do not feel I can faithfully pass judgment on this collection. The milk has been spilled, no need to cry. Let’s clean it up and pour another glass.

The Rich Brother – Tobias Wolff

I was happy to finish this volume of The BASS with a story from Wolff. I really enjoy his writing.

Speaking of finishing…man…what a struggle to get through this volume.

I’ll break down that struggle through nimbers in the next post. I really need to get a handle on my reading.

As they say…”Too many books, too little time”.

I am fortunate in life not to have been faced with a decision such that the main character must face in this story. My family life has been pretty uneventful – even as I grouse on and on about the divorce and how I hold certain feelings against my father, all of which now I am reconsidering seeing that it ain’t quite fair to hold them against a sick man…and honestly, perhaps he was sick a lot longer than anyone of us realized. Not with what is eating his mind away now…but just sick with the inability to do the right thing.

I think the closest thing that we have in our family bordering on something similar to this story would come in the form of my step-brother’s son.

Good kid…this step-nephew of mine…just can’t get his shit together. Dropped out of Basic Training – yup, they actually let him do that…during a war! I figured they would look to keep as many trigger pullers as they could.

He had a job with the federal gov’t…man, think of that, a job with the feds! The benefits, the retirement! He quit because he didn’t like the attitudes of some of his co-workers!


Of course, you ask him now, how he likes work, and he’d go on and on about his current place of employment.

He’s a bouncer.

Secure future there for sure!

Now I mentioned that I have never had to deal with a situation like the “Rich Brother”, but my step- brother has. He has really had a hard time dealing with his son. I think that every father that cares for their offspring wants to see them become successful and be happy with the life they live.

My step-brother has, as far as I know, cut off all communication with his son. He is very upset with his behavior and all of the mistakes he has made in life.

I can’t imagine the pain and the hurt that both of them must have gone through and could still be going through today.

I doubt that my step-brother feels any relief having rid himself of the “burden”.

I would think that the burden of the situation he is in now would be heavier.