I figured I should jump on the year-end top-10 bandwagon. Here are 10 stories I really loved this year (published online, of course). They’re numbered for my convenience, not because they’re in any order – except “Gold,” that goes on top for sure.
10: “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” by Robert Swartwood
I usually have a hard time ‘getting’ humor pieces, mostly because unless it’s spoken to me I can’t catch the funny part, but this one is outstanding. And the narrator’s got a point. Why not pay with a twenty?
9: “Dear Wigleaf” by Roxane Gay
A good portion of Wigleaf‘s appeal comes from the letters they pair with most authors’ stories. Each time the magazine becomes a character, a character worth writing to. Roxane’s letter is one of my favorites – how she moves from the disgusting images of the restaurant to the sweetness of her proposed relationship with Wigleaf, beautiful.
8: “Sirius” by Eric Shorey
Disclaimer: Eric is my boss at The Emerson Review. But it’s ok because I’m already going to be in charge next year. Anyway, I’m really impressed with how this story begins and ends. The fragmented sentences at the start rock, especially the repetition of the chairs. That’s a big adjustment, even if you haven’t just gotten back from space. And the helplessness of the conclusion, wonderful – the planet will spin whether or not you’re on it.
7: “Life Would Be This Way” by Jimmy Chen
Necessary Fiction is easily my favorite journal to pop up this year. And Jimmy’s story is one of the reasons why. I sympathize so much with Courtney…how often I fear I have OCD just because I’m thinking about it! But Jimmy is always great, anyway.
6: “Now Let’s See How Fast This Baby Can Go” by Ravi Mangala
I’ve often wondered what would happen if I got stuck in someone else’s bathroom. Now I know! I really like how he spends years in there without anyone even knocking. It’s like magic.
5: “Women in Wells” by Jac Jemc
I can’t remember where, but I remember reading an interview where Jac said she’s fond of stories where people just show up at other peoples’ doors, to see what happens. And, well, she’s good at it. What I really appreciate about Jac’s writing is how simple and beautiful it is on a sentence-by-sentence level: “He breathes in the smell of mothballs. The scent comes from all sides.” Why can’t I do that?
4: “Twenty Two” by Ken Baumann
I think this one actually came out in 2008, but it’s my list and I can do what I want. Ken capture’s the half-awake voice effortlessly. The one-word sentences are really effective. [Side note: Seventy Two Words seems to have died. Why why why?]
3: “Painted Faces” by Tim Jones-Yelvington
Never have I seen a story with so much pain, so much fear, housed in two simple words.
2: “El Sancho” by Kevin Kaiser
BULL: Men’s Fiction has an interesting concept: fiction for the thinking man. While their notion of ‘man’ might be slightly antiquated, this piece is spectacular, conquering the fears many men probably face: their wife’s infidelity, then measuring up to their fathers. And it’s presented in a second person voice that actually doesn’t suck (which is so hard to do!).
1: “Gold” by Ethel Rohan
This piece is simple, beautiful and, well, golden. It choked me up. Granted, I was sick when it came out, but it almost had me bawling. It’s just so, so sweet. It is love.
Reading-wise, 2009 was pretty great. So bring it, 2010.