More great short story recommendations coming up in today’s selection of 2015’s best collections:
Sinéad Gleeson (Arts journalist & broadcaster, Sinéad presents The Book Show on RTÉ Radio 1 in Ireland. She is the editor of the short story anthologies The Long Gaze Back and Silver Threads of Hope (New Island Books))
A Manual for Cleaning Women – Lucia Berlin (Picador) Brittle and brilliant writing about the lives of women we don’t hear about, Berlin can be heart-breaking or humorous and writes with refreshing sparseness. ,
Dinosaurs on Other Planets – Danielle McLaughlin (Stinging Fly, out in the UK in January 2016 with John Murray) Although a relative newcomer, McLaughlin has already had two stories (including the title one here) published in The New Yorker. There are familiar themes turned inside out, and made new and strange.
A Kind of Compass – Edited by Belinda McKeon (Tramp Press) An excellent, diverse anthology on the theme of distance from Irish and international authors including Ross Raisin, EC Osondu and Éilís Ní Dhuibhne.
Bidisha (Writer, broadcaster, journalist specialising in human rights, international affairs and the arts and culture, Bidisha is the author of 5 books of fiction and non-fiction)
My short story collection of this year would be The Republics, by Nathalie Handal (University of Pittsburg Pres), an astounding, intense, political and international collection of flash fiction which is groundbreaking in terms of form and thrilling in its concentrated prose style. Handal is an internationally renowned poet and prose writer and this collection is the culmination of her work to date. Everyone should read it.
I have done my usual this year, dipping in and out of various collections, so I have yet to actually complete any individual volume, but two that have stood out for me are Coup de Foudre (Bloomsbury USA) by Ken Kalfus and Emma Martin’s Two Girls in a Boat (Victoria University Press).
Coup de Foudre is headed up by the title novella and surrounded by an array of Borgesian delights, there is even one story called In Borges’ Library. Curious, twisty tales with intriguing literary references. I am continuing to dip in whenever I have the chance.
Emma Martin won the Commonwealth Prize for the title story in this collection, and it is a standout. She is a writer who managed to pack a novel’s worth of narrative into a short story. Sadly, this has yet to be published in the UK but you can pick it up online and I urge fans of the shorter for to do so.
Sarah Hilary (Author of the award winning Marnie Rome (Headline) crime fiction series, Sarah has had numerous short stories published in anthologies including Pangea (Thames River Pres) and Jawbreakers (NFFD))
Honeydew – Edith Pearlman (John Murray) As soon as I started reading Edith Pearlman’s debut collection, Binocular Vision, I knew I’d discovered a favourite author. Honeydew is even better. Her short stories sparkle and shine from the page, her characters feel like old friends or memorable enemies. Just wonderful.
Little Tales of Misogyny – Patricia Highsmith (Norton) Wickedly funny and sly little stories that demonstrate how few words Highsmith needed to drive home her trademarked barbs. The original title, incidentally, translated as Little Tales for Misogynists.
City of Boys – Beth Nugent (Vintage ebook, other eds. out of print) This entire collection is a song I can’t get out of my head–especially the title story, which follows two women on the upper west side of Manhattan. The book is sexy, in parts, but also tender and wistful. Sentence rhythms recur like a chorus; I feel I could almost hum them.
Daydreams of Angels – Heather O’Neill (Quercus) I’m reading this right now, so it bears mentioning. These stories are fairy tales, but crooked and gritty and set in Montreal. Here, you will find boys and girls generally shat on by life–but the stories themselves are prismatic, always capturing a particular, slanted beauty.
Tania James (Author of 2 novels, Tania debut short story collection, Aerogrammes (Knopf), was published in 2012. Her stories have also appeared in Boston Review, Granta, Kenyon Review, One Story, and A Public Space)
Emily Mitchell’s Viral (Norton) was my favourite collection of the year. There’s a sense of mystery and adventure to each of Mitchell’s stories, whether she’s reviving the wife of Louis Armstrong or conjuring a near-future in which smiling is mandatory in the workplace. Varied yet consistently haunting, Viral is a mixtape of delights.
Juliet Pickering (Literary agent at Blake Friedmann, Juliet represents a wide range of fiction and non-fiction writers including short story maestros Janice Galloway and Anneliese Mackintosh)
Rowing to Eden – Amy Bloom (Granta) I only really discovered Amy Bloom this year, and can’t believe I hadn’t found her before. She writes about many of the issues close to my heart: family, relationships, identity, life and death. She also writes beautifully and cleanly, and this is a rich collection of her stories across 20+ years; a bargain!
My second pick is for my beloved Shirley Jackson and a new collection of her writings, Let Me Tell You (Penguin Classics). Every time I think I have Shirley covered, a gorgeous new volume of her work is published meaning more of my meagre earnings go on adding a probably unnecessary book to my Shirley collection. Let Me Tell You mixes her fiction and non-fiction, and reveals a lot more about the author than I’ve read previously. The Lottery is her most famous story, and there’s lots more of that clever, disquieting writing here, too. The essays on her own family provide some brilliant humour if you need a break from being unsettled by her fiction… (more books should mix short fiction and non-fiction pieces; in the right hands, it’s a really effective combination!).
Both the above would make lovely Christmas gifts!
Kirsty Logan (Kirsty’s debut collection of short stories, The Rental Heart (Salt) won the Scott Prize, the Polari First Book Prize and a Saboteur Award. Her second collection, A Portable Shelter (ASLS) and debut novel, The Gracekeepers (Harvill/Secker) were both published this year)
Fairytales for Lost Children by Diriye Osman (Angelica), which won the 2014 Polari Prize, is a short but incredibly powerful collection exploring the lives of LGBT Somalians.
Bears of England – Mick Jackson (Faber). A delightfully odd illustrated book about – well, bears of England.
The Spinning Heart – Donal Ryan (Doubleday Ireland), a collection of linked stories about a community in recession-struck Ireland.
The Isle of Youth – Laura Van Den Berg (Daunt Books Publishing), which explores the lives of complex, troubled women in a series of beautifully- evoked landscapes.
There will be plenty more short story collections to celebrate tomorrow!