Monday, May 28, 2007

Book review: The Way We Knew It

The Way We Knew It is a fantastic collection of short stories written by students in the MFA program at Vermont College from 1981-2006. From the start, this highly successful program employed a mentorship model in a distance learning format, which includes twice yearly on-campus intensives. Graduates of the program have published 450 books, had short stories published in prestigious publications, and won numerous awards.

This volume is a selection of short fiction produced over the first 25 years of the program and is clearly the cream of the crop. As eclectic as it is long (nearly 500 pages), there is no theme among these 30 pieces, except excellent writing. The stories take place from the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont to India, and are told from the points of view of a woman living alone in the wilderness to a scientist dying of cancer to the ghost of a serial killer's victim. They are all good enough to appear in The New Yorker or Atlantic Monthly, standard popular publications where a novel reader like me might encounter them.

Being a reader mostly of novels, I find the short story form less than fully satisfying, and The Way We Knew It is no exception. If you like short stories, though, you will love this volume. Highly recommended for literary fiction collections.

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