Books: Windows into Life

Despite persistent rumors, short stories are far from dead. This summer they're in full bloom

Every decade or so someone, somewhere, proclaims short fiction irrelevant and passe. In his introduction to The Best American Short Stories of the Century, out last spring, John Updike lamented the diminished importance of the genre during his lifetime, adding later, in an interview with Amazon.com that Americans turn to celebrity anecdotes instead for narrative lessons on how we live. "In a way," Updike reflected, "you could argue that the National Enquirer is the real successor to Story magazine."

Of course anyone who has spent even 50 seconds pondering cultural habits in the '90s will agree that the decision to pick...

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