In The Soho Press Book of '80s Short Fiction, editor Dale Peck offers readers a fresh take on a seminal period in American history, when Ronald Reagan was president, the Cold War was rushing to its conclusion, and literature was searching for ways to move beyond the postmodern unease of the 1970s.
Morally charged by newly politicized notions of identity but fraught with anxiety about a body whose fragility had been freshly emphasized by the AIDS epidemic, the 34 works gathered here are individually vivid, but taken as a body of work, they challenge the prevailing notion of the ’80s as a time of aesthetic as well as financial maximalism. Formally inventive yet tightly controlled, they offer a more expansive, inclusive view of the era’s literary accomplishments.
The anthology blends early stories from writers like Denis Johnson, Jamaica Kincaid, Mary Gaitskill, and Raymond Carver, which have gone on to become part of the American canon, with remarkable and often transgressive work from some of the most celebrated writers of the underground, including Dennis Cooper, Eileen Myles, Lynne Tillman, and Gary Indiana. Peck has also included powerful work by writers such as Gil Cuadros, Essex Hemphill, and Sam D’Allesandro, whose untimely deaths from AIDS ended their careers almost before they had begun. Almost a third of the stories are out of print and unavailable elsewhere.
The Soho Press Book of ’80s Short Fiction is a daring reappraisal of a decade that is increasingly central to our culture.