Every year, I used to purchase a copy of The Best American Short Stories, both to discover new writers and for inspiration for my own writing. For the last few years, each year’s edition has been more disappointing than the last’s. It seems that it’s become little more than a compilation by M.F.A. graduates with publishing connections who all know one another and are exchanging political publishing favors. I came away from most of the stories and the characters in them thinking “I’m sorry, I just can’t care”.
So I decided that maybe it was time to look further than my own backyard, and I’m glad I did. Several of the characters and stories from this global anthology moved me so deeply that I actually wept, got angry, or stared into space to savor a brilliantly written paragraph. That’s what original, genuine , rather than formulaic, writing does—it serves as the loom upon which the common threads of our humanity can be woven and our patterned interconnectedness revealed in all its splendor—or grotesqueness, as the case may be.
This book was, for me, an antidote to the insipid offerings of mass media—a respite from constant bombardment by information of no true importance or substance. Among my favorites was a story entitled “Fireweed”, by Skye Brannon. Much the same way as I’ve come to believe that all potential politicians should be sent into outer space to gain planetary perspective before running for office, I believe that everyone should read literature from other cultures. I wholeheartedly recommend this collection of short stories for the all-important experience of seeing the world through others’ eyes, and feeling and understanding it through their hearts and minds.
After reading it, I started thinking that humanity needs a global canon of great literature. Then I wondered if maybe one already exists, so I went searching. I found this site, but it didn’t include much literature from other cultures, so I continued to search and found an awesome project dedicated to creating just such an anthology! If you want to read about the world from a different perspective than a Western one, (which seems to be becoming a code word for white), I highly recommend checking it out. Happy World Book Day, everybody!