It”s like sneaking a peak at your birthday presents before the big event actually occurs.

Reading “Best New American Voices 2001” is exciting you are basically getting the inside scoop on the most promising writers of the coming years. These individuals will be winning the National Books Awards and the Pulitzers, receiving countless honors and teaching in university English departments of schools that our children will attend.

Yet this collection of short stories still has to prove itself, being a mere infant among more well-established short-story anthologies. And although the series just celebrated its second birthday, it seems wise beyond its years. The selections are indeed very good, guided by the quirky taste of guest editor (and University English professor) Charles Baxter.

The works are diverse, to say the least as they should be in a well-rounded short story collection. The reader is able to catch a glimpse of Cambodia through the eyes of a twenty-something freelance journalist bury his roommate”s dog after accidentally letting it die of heat-stroke attend an “intervention” for their boyfriend”s alcoholic father attend a reception as a flamboyant artist.

The stories are audacious, at times jubilant in their exploration of relatively uncharted territory in the world of literature. The reader is not examining marriages gone wrong, or a twenty-something”s search for identity, all standard fare for a work of literature. Instead, the reader is fully, briefly, transported to places they perhaps have never ventured before.

Imagine, for example, that you are a child whose mother is dying of cancer, dragged off to a strange house on Thanksgiving filled with odd, “leafy-haired” children and new-age adults. What could possibly happen? You”ll never know how terribly wrong a dinner party can go unless you read “Pilgrims” by (Ann Arbor native) Julie Orringer the chilling, nightmarish ending will likely stay with you for the rest of your life.

How does it feel to be a brilliant, imaginative and sinister Filipino-American teen with a dysfunctional mother and an absentee father? Read “Superassasin” by Lysley A. Tenorio to find out.

Experience living in Korea as a newly married (and soon-to-be-widowed) American wife in Zoey Byrd”s “Of Cabbages,” or meet a mysterious man in a deserted Italian villa.

Peruse this collection slowly. Read each story one at a time, leaving room in between to process and feel, letting the characters sink into your unconscious. Each one is entirely unique and stands firmly planted on two feet, without a hint of hesitation or uncertainty, confident it will make it to the top of the literary ladder.

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