Monday, January 19, 2009

Like You Care: Favorite Short Stories of 2008

I’m proud to say that I read more than 800 short stories this year. Here are my favorites that were published within the last twelve months:

“Bill and Arlene” by Ehud Havazelet (Tin House)Revisits the same characters in Raymond Carver’s famous story “Neighbors,” a story that contains, in my opinion, one of the most shocking moments in modern short fiction. The climax of Havazelet’s story actually tops that moment.

“Tom & Jerry” by Christie Hodgen (Ploughshares)
Hodgen published two stories this year that featured Tom & Jerry as a running motif. This one, about an incredibly at-risk pregnancy, ends with one of her trademark punch-to-the-gut final paragraphs.

“Man Oh Man, It’s Manna Man” by George Singleton (Virginia Quarterly Review)
A hero for our times, this story’s title character uses mind control to make a venal, homophobic televangelist blow him through the TV screen.

“The Thirteenth Egg” by Scott Snyder (Virginia Quarterly Review)
A WWII veteran who survived the Bikini Atoll nuke tests finds himself literally glowing.

“Fetch” by Allan Gurganus (Tin House)
This white-knuckle beloved-family-dog-in-peril story appeared in the same issue of Tin House that Havazelet’s story did.

“The Dinner Party” by Joshua Farris (The New Yorker)
A story that spends this much time making fun of the movie Kung Fu Panda shouldn’t be this devastating.

“The Contents of This Shoe Box Are of Greater Worth Than Your Life” by Sean Casey (Massachusetts Review)
A jaw-droppingly scatological story about depositing bowel movements in the titular container. Oh, and did I mention that the aforementioned b.m.’s belong to Dick Cheney?

“Shakesteer’s” by James Wyatt (Cimarron Review)
Wyatt studied creative writing at the University of Missouri, and he has created the finest (and probably only) story ever based on this Columbia, Mo. institution.

“Retrospective” by Holly Goddard Jones (Kenyon Review)
This story’s signature moment is a vivid rape sequence that captures not only the terrifying nature of the encounter, but also the sickening awkwardness.

“The Last Days of Heath Ledger” by Lisa Taddeo (Esquire)
Contains the very best description of the way Jack Nicholson sits I’ve ever heard or read.