New Stories From The South - The Year's Best 1986, Edited by Shannon Ravenel. New York/South Carolina: Algonquin Books/Chapel Hill. 241 pp. $9.95. Modern short stories often appear in such literary publications as Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, and the Paris Review - magazines of limited printing and circulation that may spend more time on library shelves than in readers' hands. The O.Henry collection from Doubleday and the Houghton Mifflin series reach a larger audience with reprints of a few of these stories. The Houghton Mifflin collection is edited by a different writer each year with the assistance of Shannon Ravenel. She performs a valuable service for both the writer and the reader, as does William Abrahams for Doubleday.
``New Stories From The South'' is evidence that Ms. Ravenel, a Southerner, is also aware of the need for a collection that represents the best of Southern writers. While she is sometimes unclear as to what makes a story ``Southern,'' she recognizes a quality in Southern fiction that sets it apart from the rest of American literature. It has to do, as she puts it, with ``belonging.'' Whether or not this is a sufficient explanation, these stories are about place, guilt, mourning, young love, and people black and white - told with a sense of place, values, and language that is Southern and literary.
The selections of Ravenel evince an editorial eye for both universal themes and the craft that makes for memorable fiction. This annual collection highlights fiction that might have been overlooked otherwise. ``New Stories From The South'' not only contains stories from Southern magazines, but also from such publications as Atlantic and Grand Street. It is a satisfying addition to the collections of stories from literary magazines that publish short stories and belongs on the shelf with the O.Henry collection and Houghton Mifflin's series.