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The Virtual Bookcase : Shelf Fiction

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When a great annual collection comes out, it's hard to know the reason why. Was there a bumper crop of high-quality stories, or was this year's guest editor especially gifted at winnowing out the good ones? Either way, the 2000 edition of The Best American Short Stories is a standout in a series that can be uneven. Its editor, E.L. Doctorow, seems to have a fondness for the "what if?" story, the kind of tale that posits an imagination-prodding question and then attempts to answer it. Nathan Englander's "The Gilgul of Park Avenue" asks: What if a WASPy financial analyst, riding in a cab one day, discovers to his surprise that he is irrevocably Jewish? In ... Rest of this review on the detail page
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The young Robert Louis Stevenson suffered from repeated nightmares of living a double life, in which by day he worked as a respectable doctor and by night he roamed the back alleys of old-town Edinburgh. In three days of furious writing, he produced a story about his dream existence. His wife found it too gruesome, so he promptly burned the manuscript. In another three days, he wrote it again. "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" was published as a "shilling shocker" in 1886, and became an instant classic. In the first six months 40,000 copies were sold. Queen Victoria read it. Sermons and editorials were written about it. When Stevenson and h... Rest of this review on the detail page
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Michael Ridpath knows how to follow the money, something he did quite successfully in his previous financial thriller, The Market Maker. In Final Venture, his protagonist is Simon Ayot, a likable young British associate at Revere, a venture capital company whose senior managing partner, Frank Cook, is also Simon's father-in-law. Simon has just pulled off a major coup for the firm, so when Frank abruptly denies a life-or-death round of further investment in NetCo, Simon's most promising high-tech client, he's completely surprised. Could it be that Frank believes the rumors floating around that Simon's been having more than business meetings with a woman in the firm? Vowi... Rest of this review on the detail page
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First published in 1983, this lyrical novel, superficially straightforward but full of stories within stories, first brought Bernard MacLaverty's work to public attention. In the novel, a young Irish Republican Army operative who wants to break the cycle of violence seeks out a woman whose Ulster policeman husband he helped to murder. As their relationship grows, so do Cal's guilt and sorrow, until, in the end, he is forced to make a sacrifice of himself in order to gain redemption. Rich in ideas and history, this book helps us understand the situation in Northern Ireland--which "is not just there," MacLaverty has remarked, "as a colorful background."
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