THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES
Edited by John Gardner
Houghton Mifflin; 374 pages; $14.95
This quirky collection is at once heartening and tragic. Almost every story in it is worth rereading, but the book is the last work of its editor, killed in a motorcycle accident 2½ months ago. For the most part shunning pieces that appeared in major periodicals ("all knife-flash, no blood"). Novelist John Gardner also sidelines such contemporary masters as John Updike, Donald Barthelme and Ann Beattie in favor of relative newcomers who display "a new seriousness."
Their gravity is not without...