(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.)
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.
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?