So, December seems to be the month for compiling ‘Best Of’ lists. It’s not something I usually do because firstly, I’m not that organised and secondly, because I tend to be very bad at recalling things.
However, 2015 seems to have been a particularly good year for online short stories – the sort of stories that you cannot forget. So here, in no particular order, are the five stories which have lingered longest in my mind in 2015.
I have only selected stories which are published online because I want anyone reading this list to go and search them out. They are all worth a read.
- In The Act of Falling by Danielle McLaughlin – published in The New Yorker.
A beautifully observed tale of a family caught in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Haunting and disturbing in equal measure.
‘They were indistinguishable from the ducks that had died the day before. If she hadn’t cut through the park yesterday morning, if she hadn’t taken lunch here today, she might even have thought, next time she visited, that they were the same ducks. There was a trickery of a sort at work, a sleight of hand that suggested that the first ducks had never existed and only she alone, in silent witness, knew better.’
- ‘Pincushion’ by Cole Bucciaglia – published in Tin House
The magical re-imagining of the world and reality is dreamy and disorienting; it makes the melancholy which lies beneath the startling images all the more powerful.
‘If she could repurpose herself, this is what she would want to be: a garden of incisors. Ten little fingerbones spinning cocoons. A network of veins bursting through soil.’
- Catch by Ivan Vladislavic – published in Visual Verse
A wonderful child’s eye view of a broken relationship overlaid with beautiful descriptions. The naivety cleverly subverted by a rebellious act of thievery.
‘Although there are black smudges under her eyes, he knows she’s pleased with herself. That bitter little dimple in the corner of her mouth signals a change of mood. Anything can happen now.’
- Stone, Well, Girl by Benito Vergara – published in Smokelong Quarterly
The tragedy which plays out in this very short piece is portrayed so quietly and slowly, and yet it is still strangely ‘thrilling’, the layered viewpoints adding poignancy and weight to the tragedy when it is finally confirmed.
‘… sometimes the stone seemed special; something about its heft or color or circumference, the way it skittered across the dirt apart from the stones around it, made it worth keeping.’
- Cicadas by Sara Reish Desmond – published in The Kenyon Review
A beautifully sad story which lulls you into the same strange state of dreamy, alcoholic hyper-awareness as the protagonist. The ending comes as a thump to the chest.
‘The two watch as a mature cicada splits its shell and arches its creamy body. The wings unfurl like small scrolls revealing intricate river maps. Without recognizing their own phenomena, they leave behind their larval casings by the millions. Candy wrappers at the base of the trees. Corinne and Lucille’s jaws slacken with amazement.’
If you have any short story recommendations of 2015 then feel free to add a comment. I’m all for encountering great new stories.