Thursday, April 12, 2012

Best Fiction of the Year Annuals: 1: the eclectic US series

I thought I'd do a post about the variety of best of the year annuals, particularly those devoted to fiction...but the plethora of available and formerly available series has made a comprehensive list pretty extensive...moreso than I was able to put together in just one post...and even among the eclectic fiction (and related) annuals, this set is hardly complete.

One little discovery for me was that the series that became Best American Short Stories actually began several years before the O. Henry annuals...for some reason, I'd assumed the latter series was older. Here below some of the oldest cover images I've found and the contents lists for the oldest volumes I've found so far (and for this year's PEN/O. Henry):

CONTENTS of the third Best American Short Stories, published as The Best Short Stories of 1917 edited by Edward J. O'Brien (1918) courtesy Project Gutenberg, where you can read this volume (but not yet the earlier volume...apparently the first BASS was somehow serialized in a magazine...Google Books will show you the 1916 volume.

Introduction. By the Editor xvii
The Excursion. By Edwina Stanton Babcock 1
(From The Pictorial Review)
Onnie. By Thomas Beer 20
(From The Century Magazine)
A Cup of Tea. By Maxwell Struthers Burt 45
(From Scribner's Magazine)
Lonely Places. By Francis Buzzell 70
(From The Pictorial Review)
Boys Will Be Boys. By Irvin S. Cobb 86
(From The Saturday Evening Post)
Laughter. By Charles Caldwell Dobie 128
(From Harper's Magazine)
The Emperor of Elam. By H. G. Dwight 147
(From The Century Magazine)
The Gay Old Dog. By Edna Ferber 208
(From The Metropolitan Magazine)
The Knight's Move. By Katharine Fullerton Gerould 234
(From The Atlantic Monthly)
A Jury of Her Peers. By Susan Glaspell 256
(From Every Week)
The Bunker Mouse. By Frederick Stuart Greene 283
(From The Century Magazine)
Rainbow Pete. By Richard Matthews Hallet 307
(From The Pictorial Review)
Get Ready the Wreaths. By Fannie Hurst 326
(From The Cosmopolitan Magazine)
The Strange-looking Man. By Fanny Kemble Johnson 361
(From The Pagan)
The Caller in the Night. By Burton Kline 365
(From The Stratford Journal)
The Interval. By Vincent O'Sullivan 383
(From The Boston Evening Transcript)
A Certain Rich Man—." By Lawrence Perry 391
(From Scribner's Magazine)
The Path of Glory. By Mary Brecht Pulver 412
(From The Saturday Evening Post)
Ching, Ching, Chinaman. By Wilbur Daniel Steele 441
(From The Pictorial Review)
None So Blind. By Mary Synon 468
(From Harper's Magazine)
The Yearbook of the American Short Story for 1917 483
Addresses of American Magazines Publishing Short Stories 485
The Biographical Roll of Honor of American Short Stories for 1917 487
The Roll of Honor of Foreign Short Stories in American Magazines for 1917 506
The Best Books of Short Stories of 1917: A Critical Summary 509
Volumes of Short Stories Published During 1917: An Index 521
The Best Sixty-three American Short Stories of 1917: A Critical Summary 536
Magazine Averages for 1917 541
Index of Short Stories for 1917 544

From the Gutenberg Project digitization, the (alphabetical by author) shortlist for the first O. Henry Awards volume (1920, collecting stories first published in 1919):

1. The Kitchen Gods, by Guglielma Alsop (_Century_, September).
2. Facing It, by Edwina Stanton Babcock (_Pictorial Review_, June).
3. The Fairest Sex, by Mary Hastings Bradley (_Metropolitan_, March).
4. Bargain Price, by Donn Byrne (_Cosmopolitan_, March).
5. Porcelain Cups, by James Branch Cabell (_Century_, November).
6. Gum Shoes, 4-B, by Forrest Crissey (_Harper's_, December).
7. The Trial in Tom Belcher's Store, by Samuel A. Derieux (_American_,
8. April Twenty-fifth As Usual, by Edna Ferber (_Ladies Home Journal_,
9. The Mottled Slayer, by George Gilbert (_Sunset_, August).
10. Dog Eat Dog, by Ben Hecht (_The Little Review_, April).
11. Blue Ice, by Joseph Hergesheimer (_Saturday Evening Post_, December
12. Innocence, by Rupert Hughes (_Cosmopolitan_, September).
13. Humoresque, by Fannie Hurst (_Cosmopolitan_, March).
14. The Yellow Streak, by Ellen La Motte (_Century_, March).
15. The Elephant Remembers, by Edison Marshall (_Everybody's_, October).
16. England to America, by Margaret Prescott Montague (_Atlantic_,
17. Five Thousand Dollars Reward, by Melville D. Post (_Saturday Evening
Post_, February 15).
18. The Lubbeny Kiss, by Louise Rice (_Ainslee's_, October).
19. The High Cost of Conscience, by Beatrice Ravenel (_Harper's_,
20. The Red Mark, by John Russell (_Collier's_, April 15).
21. The Trap, by Myra Sawhill (_American_, May).
22. Evening Primroses, by Anne D. Sedgwick (_Atlantic_, July).
23. Autumn Crocuses, by Anne D. Sedgwick (_Atlantic_, August).
24. The Blood of the Dragon, by Thomas Grant Springer (_Live Stories_,
25. Contact, by Wilbur Daniel Steele (_Harper's_, March).
26. For They Know not What They Do, by Wilbur Daniel Steele (_Pictorial
Review_, July).
27. La Guiablesse, by Wilbur Daniel Steele (_Harpers_, September).
28. On Strike, by Albert Payson Terhune (_The Popular Magazine_,
29. The Other Room, by Mary Heaton Vorse (_McCall's_, April).
30. They Grind Exceeding Small, by Ben Ames Williams (_Saturday Evening
Post_, September 13).
31. On the Field of Honour, by Ben Ames Williams (_American_, March).
32. Turkey Red, by Frances Gilchrist Wood (_Pictorial Review_,

2012 Table of Contents:
Introduction by Laura Furman, Series Editor
"Uncle Rock" by Dagoberto Gilb, The New Yorker
"The Vandercook" by Alice Mattison, Ecotone
"Leak" by Sam Ruddick, The Threepenny Review
"Nothing Living Lives Alone" by Wendell Berry, The Threepenny Review
"The First Wife" by Christine Sneed, New England Review
"A Birth in the Woods" by Kevin Wilson, Ecotone
"Naima" by Hisham Matar, The New Yorker
"Mickey Mouse" by Karl Taro Greenfeld, Santa Monica Review
"Things Said or Done' by Ann Packer, Zoetrope
"East of the West" by Miroslav Penkov, Orion
"A Brush" by John Berger, Harper’s
"Kindness" by Yiyun Li, A Public Space
"Phantoms" by Steven Millhauser, McSweeney’s Quarterly
"Boys Town" by Jim Shepard, The New Yorker
"The Hare’s Mask" by Mark Slouka, Harper’s
"Eyewall" by Lauren Groff, Subtropics
"Rothko Eggs" by Keith Ridgway, Zoetrope
"The Deep" by Anthony Doerr, Zoetrope
"The Woman Who Lived in the House" by Salvatore Scibona, A Public Space
"Corrie" by Alice Munro, The New Yorker
Reading The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2012
The Jurors on Their Favorites: Mary Gaitskill, Daniyal Mueenuddin, Ron Rash
Writing The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2012
The Writers on Their Work
Recommended Stories 2012
Publications Submitted

And, of course, these two venerable series are only the oldest among many...including The Pushcart Prize volumes, beginning in 1976, devoted to fiction, poetry and nonfiction from the small press (loosely defined):

...and the lamentably short-lived (three annual volumes) Beacon Best annual, with a similar eclecticism aimed at redressing the diversity imbalance in the other annuals...

And the professional organization-sponsored annual devoted to presenting the best magazine writing of various sorts, which distantly followed Gerald Walker's three volumes for Crown Publishers (1966-1968), Best Magazine Articles:

And the regional anthologies of fiction, beginning in 1986 with New Stories from the South (discontinued with the 2010 volume):

And the much younger Western...

and Midwestern series:

And a series devoted to students in the major college writing programs, which began with the 2000 volume and ended with that from 2010:

Along with a series devoted to utter eclecticism, aimed at young readers and meant to benefit a literacy (and more) program in the SF Bay area, beginning 2002:
...which, of course, is part of the panoply of Best-American books for Houghton Mifflin that their publication of Best American Short Stories has spawned, including volumes devoted to poetry, comics and a wide variety of nonfiction writing...but given how the number of images in this post is already making it "unstable" for predictable viewing in multiple browsers, the more content-specialized best-ofs for fiction (crime fiction, sf, fantasy, horror, erotica) will have to await their own posts...


Ron Scheer said...

Thanks for putting this interesting post together, Todd. The 1916 list caught my eye, and while I've come to know a few competent writers from the early years of the 20th century, I found only one I knew of who ever wrote about the West, Edna Ferber.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Terrific post, Todd! I'm still going through the lists and the book jackets. These stories are really old; probably my granddad (and his dad) might have read them a century ago. I have been reading up some pretty vintage stuff at I haven't surfed through Google Books much though, I understand, they are pretty strong on early journals and magazines. I clicked on a handful of covers but they weren't available free online.

Todd Mason said...

Thanks, folks! Ron, Irwin Cobb wrote, if not western fiction or fiction of the west, at least western-adjacent fiction at time, or at least I recall some of his work dealing with the not quite frontier West and/or Midwest. Prashant, were your folks (and their folks) prone to this kind of anthology-reading? I've certainly come across some work of this vintage in my reading through the years, but there are a number of writers listed in the older books I'd not heard of previously, or I've only known their names. Google Books is a pretty in and out affair, indeed...

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Todd, my granddad and great-granddad were small-time writers, mostly for local newspapers and community journals, writing book reviews and on philosophy respectively. They also read a lot, especially my granddad who had his own collection of fictional novels. I don't know if he read anthologies in his time but he did read short stories from the early part of the 20th century. Although I read a lot of assorted short stories, I have never read them in anthologies, barring two — Present Laughter: An Anthology of Comic Writing edited by Malcolm Bradbury and an Esquire book of short stories (I think it was) by many well-known authors. Although, my most recent acquisition is Blood on Their Hands, an anthology of 19 crime stories by Mystery Writers of America and edited by Lawrence Block. I'm getting there...!

Todd Mason said...

As you might guess, Prashant, I hope you enjoy the new anthology and move on to many more...