McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories
Edited by Michael Chabon (Vintage, 352 pages)
With Dave Eggers' new collection of short stories hitting shelves at the same time as this compendium of "real" authors attempting genre fiction (sci-fi, mystery, horror, etc.), it looks like this season, McSweeney's will be the theme for bathroom reading. Watching Joyce Carol Oates, Peter Straub and Margaret Atwood stretch their literary muscles in altogether different directions is theoretically invigorating. (Stephen King's here too, but I don't get the joke.) When the pen hits the page, however, the results are impressive. The appeal of a ghost story or a crime drama is its undeniable thrill factor, and when skilled and literate authors apply themselves to these forms, you get pieces that are as well-crafted as they are exciting.