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October 11 , 2010

The Soho Press Book of '80s Short Fiction


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.
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Visions and Revisions

Novelist and critic Dale Peck’s latest work—part memoir, part extended essay—is a foray into what the author calls “the second half of the first half of the AIDS epidemic,” i.e., the period between 1987, when the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) was founded, and 1996, when the advent of combination therapy transformed AIDS from a virtual…

The 34 works gathered here are formally inventive yet tightly controlled, 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. Individually, Peck argues in his characteristically incisive introduction, the pieces are vivid—emotionally rich, and powered by a new prose that mixes the vernacular with an almost poetic sense of control. Taken as a body of work, they challenge the prevailing notion of the ’80s as a time of aesthetic as well as financial maximalism, and offer a more expansive, inclusive view of literary possibility.

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 anywhere else.

The Soho Press Book of ‘80s Short Fiction is a daring re-appraisal of a decade that feels increasingly central to our culture.
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