It’s that time of year where we all circle around and watch excitedly as everyone publishes their “Best of 2014” lists.
Just kidding. Those lists all suck.
Instead of realizing that the people who write these lists are just average schlubs like us, we work ourselves into a frenzy over what was or was not included. Not enough people of color. Not enough women. Too many novels and not enough short story collections. All of the authors are good friends with the writer (#WriterGate, a fake movement that doesn’t exist, is actually about ethics in literary journalism). You know, because “Best of” art criticism is dumb. Just like the Best Sellers list.
People only make these lists because they get clicks. We, as a people, love listicles. We crave the Top 10 Books to Read on a Rainy Day. We go gaga for Best Flash Fiction Collections Featuring At Least One Story About Drowning in Something Other Than Water. Because we are a simple people.
So, in that spirit, me sitting here eating ramen and nursing a hangover, me, the hot shot taste-maker Editor with a capital E, will give you a list of the five best short stories and essays published in 2014.
Play On is an essay about Pokemon and so much more. The author works through years of depression with the help of Lavender Town in Pokemon red. Fluctuating between humorous, self-deprecating, and insightfully somber, Play On can help anyone find their save point.
Everyone grieves in their own way, and in Naming the Dead, a brother and sister find themselves at odds. The young narrator is content with burying his feelings, the even younger sister by naming all of the dead things that she finds. Change is inevitable in this dry, intelligent story.
It’s no surprise that this essay was nominated for both the Best of the Net anthology as well as the Pushcart Prize. Told through a series of vignettes, Constant Motion explores the life of a post art school grad working an odd job to pay his bills. Straddling the line between hope and despair, the author examines what it means to finally enter adulthood.
It would be easy to write this story off as just another Kafka parody, but the author does more than just transform his character into a bug. Focused on the mistakes we make when we fall in love, it’s the moments before the transformation that are important. While Gregor Samsa wakes up from uneasy dreams to discover his horrific transformation, the narrator is excited for it, perfect for attaining his goals in love. It’s a sweet and ridiculous (and very short) thrill ride.
A touching story of friendship and the will to overcome, Junk Mail and Hospital Bills doesn’t read like every other story of people leaving. With small moments of subtle magic, this flash fiction piece sets itself apart from both realistic fiction and magical realism in a very Etgar Keret sort of way. Painfully honest and endlessly relatable, this story is one that will keep you coming back over and over again.
Well, there it is. The only best of list you need.