“The Shorties” my 1st Annual (ha ha) awards for short stories I’ve read.

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(Note that “shorties” is intended as a term of endearment not a politically incorrect disparaging remark about short people – though I am making Edgar Allan Poe’s character, Hop-Frog (below, at bottom right), my official ambassador for these awards.) :-)

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Now that my 2014 version of my annual short story reading project is getting underway, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on stories I read in 2013, and recognize those stories and characters I now count among my favorites. All nominees are worthy, so my winners a more a matter of taste than anything.

The Nominees:

1. Best New (to me) Author:
a) Caitlin Horrocks (“The Sleep”)
b) Steven Milhauser (“Phantoms”)
c) Henryk Sienkiewicz (“The Lighthouse Keeler of Aspinwall”)
d) Claire Keegan (“Foster”)
e) Alice Adams (“Roses, Rhododendron”)

I’ll have to go with Steven Milhauser.  His story “Phantoms” was such a unique look at the possibility of ghosts and so wonderfully written I still think about it often.

2. Best Female Character
a) Amanda (“La Vita Nuova” by Allegra Goodman)
b) unnamed MC (“Foster” by Claire Keegan)
c) Mathilde Loisel (“The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant)
d) Natasha (“One Autumn Night” by Maxim Gorky)
e) Aleksandra (“The District Doctor” by Ivan Turgenev)

I’m a sucker for stories of resilient young people, so I’m going to go with the main character (I believe she’s never named) in Claire Keegan’s “Foster.” She adapts to her circumstances and “gets it.” Her thought near the end of the story where she “realized it was my perfect opportunity to say nothing” gave me goosebumps.

3. Best Male Character
a) The Howling Man (“The Howling Man” by Charles Beaumont)
b) Monsieur de Mellet (“The Mysterious Mansion” by Honore de Balzac)
c) unnamed narrator (“The Town of Cats” by Hagiwara Sakutar)
d) Negore (“Negore the Coward” by Jack London
e) Joe (“My Old Man” by Ernest Hemingway)

I liked young Joe from Hemingway’s “My Old Man.”  Another resilient youngster. Take away everything he’s got, but he’ll still be okay.

4. Best Writing
a) Ernest Hemingway (“TheSnows of Kilimanjaro”)
b) Willa Cather (“A Death in the Desert)
c) J.D. Salinger (“The Laughing Man”)
d) Jack London (“A Relic of the Pleiocene”)
e) Algernon Blackwood (“The Willows”)

This is a tough one. Since I was so spellbound by Algernon Blackwood’s story “The Willows,” I’ll give it the nod.  His story merits that ultimate compliment to an author, “I felt like I was there.”

5. Favorite Story
a) “Phantoms” by Steven Milhauser
b) “The Laughing Man” by J.D. Salinger
c) “The Sleep” by Caitlin Horrocks
d) “The Town of Cats” by Hagiwara Sakutar
e) “A Passion in the Desert” by Honore de Balzac

Another tough one. All are worthy. If I had to pick one, I’d say Salinger’s “The Laughing Man.” That title character is actually a fictional character within the story, which is a nice added element. Anyone whose diet consists only of “rice and Eagle’s blood” makes for a good character and story. (That and how he lived on “the stormy coast of Tibet.”(!)

Those are some of my favorite stories read during the past year.  What were some of yours?

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14 Comments

  1. Candiss said,

    January 3, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Very nice! I’m bookmarking this for the next time I want a story recommendation. :)

    • Jay said,

      January 3, 2014 at 5:40 pm

      Thanks! So many good stories out there. These are just a few. :-)

  2. January 3, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    Nice list! Have fun with your 2014 challenge of shorties :))

    • Jay said,

      January 3, 2014 at 5:40 pm

      Thank you. I will. :-) Still time to join us if you’d like… :-)

      • January 3, 2014 at 6:56 pm

        i might! it’s intriguing me and i have plenty of stories (outside the collections i plan to read) ready to go. i’ll see about a list tomorrow :)

        • Jay said,

          January 4, 2014 at 9:02 am

          Would love to have you. No pressure, though. :-)

  3. mannomoi said,

    January 3, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    I’m sad I put my list together before you put out this post! It’s awesome that you keep track of the stories you read like that and this is a really good idea. I usually love a lot of things and can never isolate them into categories then decided which one I love best. But this, indeed, is a great post to reference in the future.

    • Jay said,

      January 3, 2014 at 5:43 pm

      Thanks! I wish I had done this the other years I did the project. There were so many good stories this year, these are just a sampling.

      I set up the link to your list on the challenge home page. Will check it out in detail later this everning.

      Happy reading!

  4. Dale said,

    January 3, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    Jay, I’m impressed that you took the time to think through your favorites. It’s difficult for me to figure out which ones are my favorite. But it hasn’t been difficult to put Salinger at the top of the list two years in a row. “For Esme – with Love and Squalor” was my favorite for 2012 and “DeDaumier-Smith’s Blue Period” was my favorite for 2013. “The Laughing Man” was a close runner up, though. After these, though, it’s difficult to put them in order.
    -Dale

    • Jay said,

      January 4, 2014 at 9:00 am

      Hi Dale,
      I confess I didn’t spend too much time on it. There were certain stories and characters that, probably as some did for you too, stuck with me throughout the year – even long after I’d read the story. Sadly, there were also a few I can remember almost nothing about now, less than twelve months later.

      I just loved the laughing man because of how John Gedsudski spun such a fantastic world, centering around the laughing man, for the young boys in his “scout” troop. You could feel their thrill and love of those stories. There was definite magic in that story for me.

      Oh, and my second favorite story of the read wasn’t read as part of DMI2013. It was Willa Cather’s “The Enchanted Bluff,” which I think was on your list…

      -Jay

      • Dale said,

        January 4, 2014 at 10:24 am

        Jay, I noticed you had read Death in the Dessert by Cather. I thought that story was OK, but no Enchanted Bluff. However, Death in the Dessert is one of my most popular posts for some reason.
        -Dale

        • Jay said,

          January 4, 2014 at 12:06 pm

          That one was a wild card for me last year. I agree with your assessment. A serviceable story but lacking the magic (enchantment?) of The Enchanted Bluff. Plus, since I’d read Balzac’s “A Passion in the Desert” last year, it seemed only logical that I read “A Death in the Desert” hahaha. :-)
          -Jay

  5. Paula Cappa said,

    January 4, 2014 at 11:58 am

    Impressive list, Jay. I’m curious to read Steven Milhauser’s Phantoms.I like your categories too. Thanks for this great overview. Your are doing a fine tribute to the art of the short story.

    • Jay said,

      January 4, 2014 at 12:04 pm

      Thanks, Paula. The Milhauser story may be available on-line via The New Yorker. A lot of their published short fiction is accessible – not all, but more than I would have expected.

      -Jay


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