I will abstain. If you're interested in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2005 at all, you're already an adherent of short prose, and know that it's alive and flourishing (as long as you can track it down on the smaller and smaller presses to which it's often relegated).
If the short story's cachet has evinced some decline over the course of the past century, it's a decline in public exposure and lucrative potential, not in quality. In terms of sales and public profile, the short story collection can't keep apace with the novel or pop nonfiction, but it's still absolutely kicking poetry's ass on all fronts, and, like poetry, remains in general more adventurous, fluid, and vitally modern than its novelistic big brother.
This year's edition was edited and introduced by Laura Furman, with a jury consisting of celebrated writers Cristina Garcia, Ann Patchett and Richard Russo. It's dedicated to Chekov upon the centenary of his death, which is forgivably predictable, given his pervasive influence on the short form. Besides illuminating notes from the writers on their work, the 2005 edition contains an essay by each of the judges on their favorite story, and a glossary of literary journals big and small that will be a valuable resource for writers and readers alike.
No less than four stories in the volume revolve around music, all of which are deeply appreciative, none entirely trusting. Michael Palmer's atmospheric tale, "The Golden Era of Heartbreak", is haunted by a lovelorn trucker's song that carries everywhere in a town flattened by the departure of the narrator's wife. "My house filled to the eaves with this song," he states in his spare, lyrical tone, and the story is filled with it as well: The prose, like the town, is "flat as an envelope," and the trucker's song stretches spectrally across it.
In Timothy Crouse's "Sphinxes", a remarkably confident and unclassifiable tale, piano lessons, love affairs and subtle emotional maneuvering are braided together with increasing complexity until they become indistinguishable. In each of these stories, music is salvation and undoing, pure force and calculated metaphor: a paradox, a chimera, a sphinx.
And Gail Jones's "Desolation" is about a primal, alienating sexual encounter at a Death in Vegas concert, although it cross-references with the second type of story that heavily informs this year's volume, the community / exile story, which we're coming to just now.