The 17 stories collected in Prize Stories 2001: The O. Henry Awards are some of the most interesting and engaging works of fiction published in magazines during the course of 2000. To be sure, a calendar year is an arbitrary measure of a dynamic creative process that is, by its very nature, continuous and irregular. Stories are constantly being pondered, written, abandoned, revised, submitted, chosen for publication, edited, set in type, printed, and read without any regular rhythm. Still, a discrete period of time is the window on the world of short fiction that the O. Henry Awards contemplates. Some years, as with grapes grown for wine, are better than others and in my estimation (and that of others I've talked to who are involved in reading, selecting, and editing short stories) 2000 was an excellent vintage. Representing the latest volume of the O. Henry Awards here on Bold Type are stories by three of this year's contributors: Joyce Carol Oates, Ron Carlson, and Pinckney Benedict.
Joyce Carol Oates's "The Girl with the Blackened Eye" is her latest O. Henry Award winner--the 29th in her career, the most of any author in the history of the series. The story offers a powerful and unflinching look at a violent crime through the eyes of a survivor who has done her best to put her past behind her.
First-time O. Henry Award winner Ron Carlson is represented here by "At Copper View," one of 50 stories short-listed in the back of Prize Stories 2001. It's the story of a high school football player who does a popular teammate a favor, putting his relationship with his girlfriend in jeopardy. Things turn out badly--in fact the story could be called "The Boy with the Blackened Eye." Carlson is one of three authors, along with Oates and Alice Munro, to have both a story selected for this volume of the O. Henry Awards--"At the Jim Bridger"--and a story short-listed.
Pinckney Benedict, a two-time O. Henry Award winner represented in Prize Stories 2001 with "Zog-19: A Scientific Romance," has contributed to this feature a story called "Buckeyes," which was included in the PEN Syndicated Fiction Project several years ago and was also performed in the Selected Shorts program. "Buckeyes" is an engrossing story about a group of boys who venture into a junkyard operated by a nasty man with a vicious dog to check out a recently salvaged car wreck that may or may not contain the bodies of a family from Ohio.
Also included in this issue of Bold Type are:
I hope this issue of Bold Type whets readers' appetites for the 2001 volume of The O. Henry Awards and that the book and this feature will serve as a starting point for further exploration by readers interested in the contemporary short story.
-- Larry Dark