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Thoughts on Short Fiction: Angus’s Top Five Short Stories (of the Year)

Thoughts on Short Fiction

Let’s get straight to it: I cannot make a list of my five all-time favorite short stories. That is sheer torture considering the small number of spots to fill. But I want to make a list because I want to celebrate this blog’s anniversary and, to a large extent, the joy of reading short stories. So I’ll just make a list of the top five stories I’ve read within the fiscal year of the Short Story Station (August 2014 to July 2015).

But before that, allow me a bit of digression. Before the Short Story Station was born, I’ve always had this thought of putting up a blog dedicated to short story reviews. It’s not an original idea but it’s also not common. I’ve first thought of making this a side project on my book blog, but I had the chance to discuss this with some of my bookish blogger friends. They pretty much like it. So we chatted through FB Messenger about plans and ideas, about formats and features, about the blog’s look and feel, about inviting guest reviewers and future collaborators, and voilà! Le premier anniversaire!

It is a great pleasure collaborating with everyone, both the contributors and the followers. I’m looking forward to more years of great short stories. Cheers! So anyway, here is my list of five, in alphabetical order:

Below is an excerpt from my review:

“Chablis is my first foray into what I now believe is the wonderful world of Donald Barthelme’s fiction. I’ve been wary of trying out his works before because his brand of postmodernism might not be to my liking. I have conflicted feelings about postmodern fiction: it either rises gloriously in my eyes or falls flatly at my feet. In the case of Chablis, it’s the former.”

Oh man, I wish I could read this story now, but there are only two ways: subscribe to the New Yorker’s Digital Archive service or get a copy of 40 Stories, the author’s short story collection where Chablis is the opener. I think I’ll get the book instead. I’m pretty sure Barthelme has a lot to offer.

Drown by Junot Díaz

Drown is about a young man, also the narrator, who is avoiding his best friend because of a past sexual encounter with him. It is something that the narrator did not pursue but quietly consented to. The story’s atmosphere is roiled by the juxtaposed images of the narrator’s machismo and his sublime love for his single mother. Since the narrator is unnamed, I am not sure if he is the same Yunior we’ve read about in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and This Is How You Lose Her, but it probably is safe to presume so. It can work either way. And that’s the beauty of it. You can take it out from the middle of linked stories without even knowing who Yunior is and still be able to feel the intensity of it.

This is included in the author’s début short story collection with the same title. Yunior, by the way, is identified in many of the stories here. Click this link to read Drown.

Below is an excerpt from my review:

“Going for a Beer compresses a man’s story of beers and adulteries into a single paragraph of about a thousand words. It seems like an easy feat to perform, to put in bullet after bullet of a man’s major life events. But this would make up for a boring story. Here, many details from the unnamed man’s life are omitted. The reader is left with no choice but to trust the author and to go with the cunningly constructed flow of time, memory, and anticipation.”

This is an ingenious one. How did he do it? Just thinking about it takes my breath away. Click this link to read Going for a Beer.

L’amour, CA by Lysley Tenorio

L’amour, CA is about a girl whose family was pulled out from the rural hardscrabble life in a Philippine province and dropped in Lemoore, California. This should allow her to follow her dreams, right? But instead of a happy ending, we see a picture of a domestic tragedy replete with the uncertainties that immigrants face upon setting their clumsy, unsteady feet in a country that is supposed to give them a better life. It also talks of growing up and coping with changes, and of love, betrayal, and waiting.

This is included in the author’s début short story collection, Monstress. Click this link to read L’amour, CA.

Below is an excerpt from my review:

“The Tree Line, Kansas, 1934 is about FBI agent Lee’s memory of a stake out that he was assigned to with a younger agent named Barnes. Now in his retirement years, Lee returns to the memory of those five days, as if it were the defining moment not only of his career but of his life.”

There’s something about such themes of memory and looking back that draws me in. This is one that I didn’t immediately love, but it stayed so sharply in my heart that recalling it gives a little kick. Click this link to read The Tree Line, Kansas, 1934.

I made the selection easier by not including the stories that were featured in this blog. If I did, I would have had included Incarnations of Burned Children (David Foster Wallace), Jon (George Saunders), and Roselily (Alice Walker) in my longlist. And I would have had a problem crossing out three from the eight. Anyway, I’ll think I’ll make this an annual thing. So see you again next year. In the mean time, let’s carry on reading short stories.

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