Southern literature still has its derelict, demonic, and debilitated characters, but these days the genre is edgier, its variety of themes broader and more sophisticated. In his introduction to New Stories from the South 2007: The Year’s Best, Pulitzer Prize-winner Edward P. Jones writes, “I need a sense that the world, even for one character, has shifted.” Such shifts occur in nearly all of the 18 stories in this collection, especially in a riveting piece by Stephen Marion’s “Dogs With Human Faces.” A young inmate is happy to trade confinement for community service until he realizes that he’s been assigned to euthanize unadoptable dogs. But an unexpected twist creates one of the best surprises of the entire anthology.
For readers who love the more bizarre elements of Southern literature, Daniel Wallace’s “A Terrible Thing” will do the trick. David, the narrator, has a history of dating women who have been disfigured, either by birth or accident. Ironically, when circumstances reveal this penchant to his flawlessly beautiful wife, Andy, she becomes traumatized with fear about what terrible accident her future with David might bring. As Jones explains: “I have tried to...pick stories that are not, to use some of William Faulkner’s words, about the glands, but about the human heart.”
Which, ultimately, is what makes the world shift.