Reviews for 21 Essential American Short Stories

Booklist Reviews 2011 February #2
No one would envy Leslie Pockell. If charged with selecting 21 short stories from the copious canon of American short fiction, anyone would cower. Fortunately, Pockell accepted the charge and has provided a thoughtful collection. Inevitably, such an effort requires selection, which means exclusions. Where are Flannery O'Connor and John Cheever? 21 Essential American Short Stories does not include a story originally published after 1948. Excluding a half-century of stories deprives the collection of completeness. Fortunately, Americans have been writing great stories for a long time, and Pockell has selected a cornucopia of classics, some well known and some lesser known. The collection is arranged chronologically and peppers humor (Ellis Parker Butler's "Pigs Is Pigs," Ernest Hemingway's "The Killers," and James Thurber's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty") with sorrow (Herman Melville's "Bartlelby the Scrivener," Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," and Stephen Crane's "The Blue Hotel"). Twain, Gilman, and Fitzgerald provide further shape. Pockell made shrewd decisions and compiled a collection worthy of its place on the shelf. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.