The Best Small Fictions 2015


The Best Small Fictions 2015. Ed. Robert Olen Butler, Tara L. Masih. Plano, TX: Queen’s Ferry Press (2015), 160 pp.

It was refreshing to see this collection of short fiction come out, and I was glad that it was recently taken up by a new press for the 2017 volume. There were some good stories in The Best Small Fictions 2015, which I’ll mention below. This quote from Robert Olen Butler’s introduction is pretty good:

“About large fictions, which, by their length, must have plenty of story in them, Carlos Fuentes once said, ‘A novel is a pack of lies hounding the truth.’ A small fiction is a lone wolf of a lie, sometimes hounding the truth across a field but oftentimes simply sitting on a hilltop to raise its face to the moon and howl of love or loss, pain or fear, hard-earned wisdom or benighted ignorance. We listen to small fictions like nightsounds from afar. They enter us briefly, in sweetness or sassiness, in hilarity or aching sadness, but they leave us imprinted with freshly experienced truth. Truth possible to know only through the clarifying lies of fiction.”

These are the stories I liked best:

Stefanie Freele, “Scarlet Fever,” about a 7-year-old girl who, in the clutches of pneumonia, dovetails with her 47-year-old self, and their stories overlap in a feverish episode.
— Randall Brown, “Lithopedion,” a piece about a woman who gives birth, twenty years later, to a calcified baby. She takes the baby to the now estranged father.
Jane Liddle, “It Will Never Be Deep Enough,” about a woman who has a post-party conversation with her lover. The strength of the story comes from the pace and the voice, both handled very well.
— Emma Bolden’s “Before She Was a Memory” is a story for which it was almost impossible not to be poignant—about a mother who goes to the morgue to identify the corpse of her beheaded mother—but could’ve made even more of this powerful theme.
Julia Strayer, “Let’s Say,” a story about a mother who imagines being shot while pushing her daughter on the swings. She then imagines the relationship between the shooter and his mother, as well as the future that would await her own daughter.
Ron Carlson’s “You Must Intercept the Blue Box before It Gets to the City” describes a person chasing down a blue box that tries to reach a city. It’s good mostly because of the pace, and some of the random comments, a sustained second-person narrative that manages to tell a short—inconclusive—tale and even develop the narratee’s character.
Zack Bean, “Bad Boys,” a story about a group of boys who turn into “bad boys,” After moving slowly, the story picks up the pace and covers several years of bad boy life in a few sentences—getting to a point in which the bad boys, now grown up, reflect on their bad decisions and try to prevent others from repeating them.
Naomi Telushkin, “Object,” a piece narrated by a woman who falls for a man who recently underwent a sex change operation; the woman knows this man’s now estranged mother, who feels the man “kidnapped her beautiful daughter, burned off her hair, ripped off her breasts”; she tries on the man’s abandoned female wardrobe and looks “radiant” when wearing it under her own clothes.
— Dan Moreau’s “Dead Gary” is a funny and well-paced story about a nondescript worker who dies and still keeps showing up for his office job. As people get fired and leave, Gary stays behind.

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