Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Personal best books of the year, short story collections...

What? It's that time of year, again? Lists? Really?

Well, Christmas Season fast approaches, so I guess it makes sense to start posting some year's bests. I don't like the number 10. I'm going to post my favorites, regardless of what year they came out, over the next few days.

School ate a lot of my reading time this year, and will continue to do so but looking back, I think it's worth pointing out some of the best stuff I read this year. Also, much of this stuff came to me via school, so, hooray for school! (livejournal cats, the links might not work for you, so hop over to to see the books.)

These were my favorite short story collections of the year, in a very strong year for collections, during a year where I read a ton of them.

Wolven's collection of short stories is the kind of hardcore, brutal, heart-breaking stuff you wish pulp crime dramas were all about. Prisoners digging graves weep not for the men they bury, but for a deer caught on a fence. A woman chops down the trees of her ancestors to gaze upon a swimming pool. Haunting, painful, macho stuff. Boxers and meth dealers and men from the other side of the tracks doing their best to get by. Excellent stuff. 

Is it a novel? Is it a short story collection? Who cares! This is an excellent, maddening book full of images that will stay with you a long time, and re-invents not only the portrait of the artist as a young man, but reinvents the mythology that wrestles with the protean as a way to reinvent philosophy. This book is excellent.

I picked this up on a whim, knowing almost nothing about Rikki Ducornet, and I was floored. Now, I dig through the internet searching for more stories in litmags by Rikki Ducornet. The walls of madness descend upon the characters, as surreality unravels their lives even as it makes their lives meaningful. I don't even know what to tell you about this book, because descriptions don't do it justice. Check it out. You won't regret it.

I picked this up in a dollar book sale from Small Beer Press, because I recalled how much Maureen McHugh impressed me during my time at Sci-Fi Conventions in Texas. I was expecting a good book. What I didn't expect was a book quite this good. Science Fiction invades the modern American family. A dead daughter cloned daughter came out broken, and caring for her pushes an older brother into rebellion. Alzheimers heals but does not rebuild what is lost. A microchip that reveals where a child is gets turned off, and she runs away. This is vital stuff.

None of these collections came out this year. With all the year's best lists dedicated to current titles, I thought it might be worthwhile to talk about the things that have been out a while. Thus, no Third Bear. Oh, heck, why not?

This collection? Yeah. It was awesome. These stories are not fantasy so much as they are surrealism donning whatever coat of whimsy suits the territory of the mind. Even the recognizably fantasy stories, like the titular Seether tale, have more in common with Kafka or perhaps Guy de Maupassant (I couldn't help but think of the societal madness of Maupassant's famous piece of string, for some reason...) than Moorcock or Fritz Lieber. "The Situation" is, perhaps, the most "important" of the works present. I suspect a hundred years from now, when literary historians are trying to understand what life as like for us in our time, they will find the mysterious truth of office work presented in this haunting, fabulist nightmare, and it will speak to them in the way that mysteries last longer than comedies, and are funnier and more horrifying when they are so true. It's all brilliant stuff.

I read a *lot* of collections this year, because I was writing one. Every one of these collections should be considered with that in mind.

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