Series editor Heidi Pitlor recounts behind-the-scenes anecdotes and examines, decade by decade, the trends captured over a hundred years. Together, the stories and commentary offer an extraordinary guided tour through a century of literature with what Moore calls all its wildnesses of character and voice. These forty stories represent their eras but also stand the test of time. Here is Ernest Hemingway s first published story and a classic by William Faulkner, who admitted in his biographical note that he began to write as an aid to love-making. Nancy Hale s story describes far-reaching echoes of the Holocaust; Tillie Olsen s story expresses the desperation of a single mother; James Baldwin depicts the bonds of brotherhood and music. Here is Raymond Carver s minimalism, a term he disliked, and Grace Paley s secular Yiddishkeit. Here are the varied styles of Donald Barthelme, Charles Baxter, and Jamaica Kincaid. From Junot Diaz to Mary Gaitskill, from ZZ Packer to Sherman Alexie, these writers and stories explore the different things it means to be American. Moore writes that the process of assembling these stories allowed her to look thrillingly not just at literary history but at actual history the cries and chatterings, silences and descriptions of a nation in flux.