Best of Times, Worst of Times

America's first Gilded Age produced Mark Twain, Henry James, Willa Cather, and a flock of other notables. Will our current climate of economic imbalance, ruinous vanity, joyous nihilism, and wild-eyed millennialism produce a similar wealth of literary talent? Only posterity can say for sure. But this volume of stories from such luminaries as Junot Diaz, Bobbie Ann Mason, and Walter Mosley sets the bar admirably high.

April 21: " 'Pull' includes 'invitations to tea' at which one hears smiling reminders that a better life is available to people who stop talking about massacres..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…