Here’s part 2 of this week’s look at the best short story collections of the year. Enjoy!
Elizabeth McCracken (Author of 2 story collections and 3 novels, Elizabeth’s most recent collection, Thunderstruck & Other Stories (Vintage), won the 2015 Story Prize. She is James A. Michener Chair in Fiction at the University of Texas)
A Manual for Cleaning Women – Lucia Berlin (Picador). At first I wondered how I’d never heard of Lucia Berlin; then, how it was the world hadn’t, or had and had forgotten her. This astonishing collection of stories by Berlin, who died in 2004, are stories as dark and hard and hilarious and human–she’s an incredible stylist, too, and there’s some magic at the end of every story that makes you dive headlong into the next.
Barefoot Dogs – Antonio Ruiz-Camacho (Simon & Schuster, USA) is a collection of connected stories, varied in tone, structure, narrators–they centre around the kidnapping of the patriarch of a family in Mexico, but they take place around the world, and are brilliant and innovative but also wrenching–and funny, too. Each story takes advantage of the short story form in a different strange ways.
Chika Unigwe (Award winning writer of fiction, poetry and journalism, Chika won the 2003 BBC Short Story Competition, a Commonwealth Short Story Competition award, and her novel, On Black Sisters’ Street, won the 2012 Nigeria Prize for Literature)
I read a lot of literature in translation. This year, one of my absolute favourites has been I Love Dollars and Other Stories of China by Zhu Wen (translated by Julia Lovell(Penguin)). Wen’s stories are funny, jarring, delightfully irreverent and brilliant.
I recently re-read Reality, Reality by Jackie Kay (Picador) and loved it as much as I did first time around. Kay is a practiced observer who writes with an enormous sense of compassion. Kay’s characters are so real they walk off the page.
Alison MacLeod (Short Story writer, novelist and essayist, Alison is also Professor of Contemporary Fiction at the University of Chichester. She has been shortlisted for the BBC Short Story Award, and longlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award and the Man Booker Prize)
The Stories – Jane Gardam (Little, Brown) Gardam’s touch is light and her style is elegant, yet she manages to bring us up close to the fierce intensities of love, yearning and grief. If her stories are quiet, they are also disquieting, for in much of her work, she uncovers that which has been made taboo or un-sayable in everyday life. At the same time, she holds out the imaginative possibility of the sacred. I love that range, from the dark to the miraculous. I love the hold-your-nerve daring beneath the elegance.
Light Box – K.J Orr (Daunt Books Publishing, February 2016) The publication in February of this debut collection will be a great moment for the short story in 2016. Orr is an absolutely natural short story writer who knows that life’s profundities often unfold without witnesses, beyond the action of centre-stage, in the private language of instinct, fumbled need and fleeting connection. In Orr’s vision of our times, the utterly familiar is also surreal; the half-remembered incident is also devastating. Her stories read with a compellingly cool clarity and restraint. They are also thrillingly precise. Light Box is, above all, a luminous collection. It reveals, with beautiful acuity, what it is to be human, tender and fallible.
Naomi Frisby (Book blogger and reviewer, Naomi runs The Writes of Woman website, which reviews books by women writers, and is co-founder of the Diverse December initiative. Naomi is also studying for a PhD in Creative Writing)
Every Kiss a War – Leesa Cross-Smith (Mojave River Press) A collection about love – falling in it and out of it – spanning flash fictions to interlinked stories. Its infused with whiskey and music, though it’s the language that really makes the stories sing. Lines like ‘His heart is a heavy, loaded gun he hands over to me, lets me spin on my finger’ and ‘His mouth tasted like thousand-page Russian novels I’d never read‘ appear on almost every page.
Grow a Pair: 9 1/2 Fairytales About Sex – Joanna Walsh (Readux Books) As much about transformation as it is about sex, Walsh mixes retellings of traditional fairytales like The Princess and the Penis with new pieces. Filled with as many moments of humour as it is ones of magical realism, the collection allows its women to take control of their own sexuality and fulfillment. It’s entertaining, smart and thoughtful.
Nikesh Shukla (Author of 2 novels, screenwriter, journalist, performer, Nikesh’s short stories have been widely published and broadcast including in Best British Short Stories 2013, Five Dials, The Sunday Times, Book Slam and on BBC Radio 4)
Mahesh Rao’s One Point Two Billion (Daunt Books Publishing) tells an erudite, bittersweet and occasionally hilarious tale of modern India, through stories about its status as a super power, religion, yoga and without a mangrove swamp in site.
Only the Animals by Ceridwen Dowey (Atlantic) and The Shore by Sara Taylor (Windmill) both haunted, playing with the space between short story collection and narratively intricate novel in a really satisfying way.
Sara Crowley (Bookseller, short story champion, Sara’s short stories have been published in numerous magazines and journals including 3:AM, PANK and the Irish Times)
For haunting, perceptive fiction I recommend Your Father Sends His Love by Stuart Evers (Picador). The title story is extraordinary; definitely the best I’ve read this year.
My most eagerly awaited publication of 2015 was Janice Galloway’s Jellyfish (Freight) which I am reading very slowly so as to savour each brilliant word.
Nuala O’Connor (Author of 5 short story collections, 3 novels and 4 collections of poetry, Nuala also writes as Nuala Ní Chonchúir. Her work has also been published and broadcast in numerous places including The Stinging Fly, Wales Arts Review and Poetry Ireland Review)
Wallflowers – Eliza Robertson (Bloomsbury) A cornucopia of original, lyrical stories, obsessed as much with form-bending, as with themes of grief, the importance and beauty of the natural world, and frail, fading relationships. Magical.
Used To Be – Elizabeth Baines (Salt) I’m a big Baines fan; she ferrets out emotional truths, and the quirks that make people tick, with investigative precision. There’s humour and stylish language too. A dazzling writer.
My favourite short story collection of the year has to be The Redemption of Galen Pike by Carys Davies (Salt) winner of the 2015 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award – she is a fantastic writer, who writes the most haunting and vivid characters.