Best Efforts

A survey of some woefully incomplete literary collections.

THE BEST YEAR ever for books has been 1999, or so it would seem from the sheer number of "best of" format titles being published. Omnibus packages of essays, prose, poetry, erotica, short stories—you name it—crowd the bookstore shelves, each one boasting its supremacy. So, with the holiday shopping season upon us, we hope the following short guide will help determine your best bets for giving and reading. The Best American Short Stories of the Century: While containing works by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Cheever, this compendium hardly lives up to its name, given the glaring omission of dozens of worthy efforts this writer submitted to the volume's ignorant, ill-read editor, John Updike. "Mr. Miller," he curtly replied, "you seem to be under the mistaken impression that I am gathering a collection of science-fiction stories. Please find enclosed your manuscript of Warlords of Sargon V, Part XII in the SASE you so kindly supplied." The Best American Essays 1999: Covering topics from amnesia (Joyce Carol Oates) to air-conditioning (Arthur Miller), this volume can't be considered complete without the definitive 27-part Sound Transit series by a certain overlooked Seattle Weekly writer. (The Pulitzer committee surely won't repeat this mistake.) The Best American Short Stories 1999: Apparently editor Amy Tan couldn't be bothered to read Invasion of Sargon V, Part III, without which this anthology is hardly worth buying. The Beacon Best of 1999: Claiming to be a collection of "creative writing by women and men of all colors," yet showing a surprising lack of diversity in its quota against certain white male Seattle writers! Again, another disappointment, thanks to closed-minded editor Ntozake Shange. The Best American Recipes: An otherwise useful guide to the culinary arts that might've reached definitive status had it included my proven dinnertime favorite—Spam peppercorn souffl頳erved in a flaming Jack Daniels-based sauce. (Note to fellow gourmets: Remember to take the batteries out of the smoke detector before ignition.) 1999 Best Newspaper Writing: A joke, obviously, given the baffling omission of my front-page expos頯f municipal restroom construction bid-rigging ("Seattle Sanican Schell-Shocker"), which blew the lid off City Hall! That coup of investigative journalism is sure to win recognition elsewhere after those ridiculous libel charges are dismissed. Best American Gay Fiction 3: Oh sure, they talk about tolerance, but when it comes to allowing Bondage Boys of Sargon V, Part VII into its pages, prejudice still reigns! The Best of The American West: Apparently there's no room in the corral for my vivid first-person account of the Monroe State Fair kiddie sheep riding competition—as if rodeo clowns don't cry real tears! The Best of Latin American Short Stories: Maybe something was lost in translation, but the editors can hardly call their anthology complete without my exciting tale of Gen. Pershing's pursuit of Pancho Villa, A Grand Time Across the Rio Grande. The Best American Erotica 1999: Don't these people know sexy? She-Devils of Sargon V, Part XXIV is sexy, yet was inexplicably left out of this flawed compendium. The Best American Short Plays 1998-1999: Perhaps there was some kind of error at the printers that prevented my one-act No Fire Exit from being included here. The book is sadly compromised without it. The Best American Sports Writing 1999: Clearly, editor Richard Ford doesn't know squat about girls' junior high badminton, which this writer has covered comprehensively in the pages of this paper. Wait for the year 2000 edition, when this oversight will doubtlessly be rectified. The Best of Bad Hemingway: OK, maybe there was a slight misunderstanding as to the exact meaning of bad in this category. Perhaps my short story Papa Gets Drunk and Beats Up a Cuban Whore wasn't quite what they had in mind. The Best American Poetry 1999: Another lie! An otherwise excellent volume is ruined by the inexplicable absence of my trochaic tetrameter account of a memorable August City Council meeting ("Speak! O Steinbrueck, noble agent,/Transit czar, of rails and buses . . ."). Just what the hell does this so-called editor Robert Bly know about poetry anyway? The Best American Mystery Stories 1999: A joke of a mockery of an insult! No one could've possibly guessed the outcome of The Enigma of Sargon V, Part VIII unless they'd read Part XIV first in galleys. I smell a rat! The Best American Movie Writing 1999: Yet another compendium of hackwork, which might have been rendered indispensable with the inclusion of my masterful analysis of Big Daddy—revealed to be the Citizen Kane of our time.

 
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