Raymond Carver: Collected Stories (Library of America, $40) is a treasure. As we’ve come to expect from the Library of America, this edition is handsomely bound and contains not only all of Raymond Carver’s stories, collected and uncollected, but also essays, a chronology, notes on the text, and a brief biography. The real treat, though, is the inclusion of Beginners, the unedited collection of stories that was published as What We Talk about when We Talk about Love. This is a perfect gift for fans of Carver’s fiction or for anyone who wants to see him in a new light.
Fresh off his National Book Award win, Sherman Alexie delivers a heartbreaking, hilarious collection of stories. War Dances (Grove, $23) explores the precarious balance between self-preservation and external responsibility in art, family, and the world. Alexie populates his stories with ordinary men on the brink of exceptional change and introduces us to personal worlds in transformation. In the title story, a famous writer must decide how to care for his distant father who is slowly dying a “natural Indian death” from alcohol and diabetes, just as he learns that he himself may have a brain tumor. Alexie dissects a vintage-clothing store owner’s failing marriage and his courtship of a married photographer in various airports across the country; shows what happens when a politician’s son commits a hate crime; and traces how a young boy discovers his self-worth while writing obituaries for his local newspaper. Brazen and wise, this is a provocative new work.
In his introduction to The Complete Stories Of J.G. Ballard (W.W. Norton, $35), Martin Amis calls Ballard the “most original English writer of the last century.” Indeed, Ballard’s stories are a blend of science fiction and dark, psychological dramas, akin to the stories of Orwell and Kafka, but entirely original and distinctive. From the endless exploration of urban space in “Escapement” to the humorous and sad criticism of sexual mores in “Love in a Colder Climate,” Ballard’s fiction reflects the social, cultural, and political issues of his time. This substantial collection is rewarding in its uniqueness and vision.