NER Stories Cited as “Notables” in Best American Short Stories

9780547554822_lresFour stories first appearing in New England Review were cited as “Notables” in The Best American Short Stories 2013, edited by Elizabeth Strout and Heidi Pitlor.

Those cited were Matthew Baker’s “Everything That Somehow Found Us Here” (33.2), and from 33.1 William Gilson’s “At the Dark End of the Street,” Jane Ratcliffe’s “You Can’t Be Too Careful,” and Christine Sneed’s “The Finest Medical Attention.”

The complete list of selections and notables can be found on the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt website, and the book can be purchased here and at your local booksellers.

The radiation came to an end

 Preston | By William Gilson

William Gilson by M Park

Author’s Note: In this short work of fiction, Burt, age 75, an American living permanently in England, is writing to an old friend in the States.

I enjoyed the drives to Preston. I managed to arrange a schedule of early appointments so I was always one of the first patients to be seen, before the waiting rooms filled or any of the machines broke down, before the technicians grew tired. The coffee was free and of good quality and as I waited I wrote in my notebook. Sort of as I am writing to you now.

Those weeks are in my memory a time of quiet pleasure, when I wasn’t particularly worried about the cancer. I had something specific and easy to do every week-day and I felt that with each trip the cancer, which for years had been trying to kill me, was finally being attacked and possibly defeated. Previous to this I had not trusted doctors, one of whom had operated on me, an “experimental” operation I had stupidly chosen, it was an awful experience, afterward pronounced a failure, causing me to spend eight weeks at home wearing pyjamas, with a blue tube coming out of my abdomen, urine going into a bag hitched to my leg. After I finally resumed peeing normally and the tube was removed, I was assigned a new doctor, a gorgeous smart bossy woman who ordered the radiation with confidence, calculating how to silently blast my groin with precision rays. And in a strange state of trust and painlessness I drove back and forth to Preston, one hour each way. In the car I listened to a reading of Willa Cather’s novel The Song of the Lark, about a girl born with musical talent, how she grows up in a prairie town and becomes a famous singer. Then I listened to a long book on the history of the Byzantine Empire which I never finished because the radiation came to an end.

On the way to Preston, soon after sunup as I drove south on the “dual carriageway,” I watched with anticipation for my favorite passage, a stretch of several miles where a high tension electrical line, three thick cables hanging in long catenaried loops between widely spaced “pylons” like long graceful musical rhythms, paralleled the highway and then began merging toward it, finally crossing overhead near an old stone barn set in a field. So beautiful, that approaching moment when the thick lines crossed.


NER Digital is a creative writing series for the web. William Gilson lives in England. Carved in Stone: The Artistry of New England Graveyardsa collaboration with the photographer Thomas E. Gilson, is published by Wesleyan University Press; the text and some of the photographs first appeared in NER 30.4.

New Books from NER Writers: Carved in Stone

NER contributor William Gilson has published a new book, Carved in Stone, about the art of New England gravestones, with photographs by Thomas Gilson. From Amazon: “Gravestones are colonial America’s earliest sculpture and they provide a unique physical link to the European people who settled here. Carved in Stone is an elegant collection of over 80 fine duotone photographs, each a personal meditation on an old stone carving, and on New England’s past, where these stones tell stories about death at sea, epidemics such as small pox, the loss of children, and a grim view of the afterlife. The essay is a graceful narrative that explores a long personal involvement with the stones and their placement in New England landscape, and attempts to trace the curious and imperfectly documented story of carvers. Brief quotes from early New England writers accompany the images, and captions provide basic information about each stone.”

William Gilson’s most recent contributions to NER were published in 33.1 and 30.4.

Carved in Stone is available at Amazon and other booksellers.