Author Julian Barnes latest book is Love, etc. (Knopf, $16.10). Here he chooses five of his favorite 20th-century American short-story collections
The Reckoning and Other Stories by Edith Wharton (out of print), which contains Roman Fever, can be safely recommended. Unfortunately, Whartons short stories have not enjoyed the revival that her novels have; here there is more ghostliness, and more overt comedy. [Editors note: Roman Fever and Other Stories is available from Collier Books, $8).
Complete Short Stories by Ernest Hemingway (Scribner, $14). Hemingways literary virtues of economy, wryness, and disjunction work better in this form than in the full-length novel. The stories also confirm that his great theme is not heroism but cowardice.
Airships by Barry Hannah (Grove Press, $8.80). A dazzling, lyrical, and scary depicter of the American South, with a perfect ear for the redneck cadence. Get this one, which is his debut collection.
The Collected Stories by John Cheever (Vintage Books, $12.80). Cheevers chaotic and tormented life has been allowed to overshadow his controlled and stylish work. This collection is his masterpiece: suburban discontent raised by a transcendent ache and a shimmer of the surreal.
Birds of America by Lorrie Moore (Picador, $11.20). The best American short-story writer under 50. This collection, Moores latest, shows her in full plumage and vertiginous flight, able to range from the comedy of female yearning to the tragedy of infant cancer.