Book review: The Best American Short Stories 2022, ed. by Andrew Sean Greer

posted: January 20, 2024

tl;dr: A healthy dose of fantasy makes this an above average anthology of short stories...

The Best American Short Stories 2022 guest editor Andrew Sean Greer appears to have a predilection for works of literature that feature elements of fantasy and magic. While there are stories in this anthology which are firmly set in what most would call the “real world”, there are more than a handful which clearly violate the laws of physics. That’s perfectly fine in fictional literature, and can be a great way for an author to demonstrate creativity and innovation. Most of my favorite stories in this volume are the fantastical ones.

There is one short story that appears in both The Best Short Stories 2022: The O.Henry Prize Winners and The Best American Short Stories 2022: “The Little Widow from the Capital” by Yohanca Delgado, which is also a story with elements of fantasy. While quite a good story, Delgado’s work did not quite make my set of favorite stories from either volume.

A book cover, with the title and editor's name in white letters on a diagonal black banner across the middle and over a picture of six columns of stacked books, with just the bottom of the books' pages visible

Here are my favorite stories:

“The Beyoğlu Municipality Waste Management Orchestra” by Kevin Orhan: Clearly there’s no way the events in this story could happen in reality, but that just makes it magical. Orhan has penned a wonderfully hopeful response to the authoritarian censorship which is on the rise in the world, as governments attempt to eliminate what they call misinformation.

“Mr. Ashok’s Monument” by Sanjena Sathian: Religion, fantasy, and magic abound in India, perhaps because the reality of life is not so pleasant for a large fraction of the population. Sanjena Sathian’s story would not be believable if set in the United States, but the setting chosen for it in India fits the story perfectly.

“Mbui Dash” by Okwiri Oduor: A story, written from the perspective of a teenage girl living in a Third World country, about a stranger who shows up in a small town on a holiday of remembrance. The author, Okwiri Oduor, presents a series of somewhat fantastical scenes that explores the concepts of trust and survival, and eventually also explains the story’s title.

“Bears Among the Living” by Kevin Moffett: This is not a short story in the traditional sense, with a plot and an arc to the storyline. Rather, it is a series of impressions and vignettes that manages to create a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts, with family as the central theme.

With the recent changes to the O. Henry anthology series, the differences between it and the Best American Short Story series are greater even though the names are more similar. For 2022, both are worth reading if you enjoy short stories.