Sunday, December 16, 2007

The New Yorker: 2007’s Top-Ten Stories

The year’s not over yet, quite, but it’s time to name the Top-Ten New Yorker Stories of 2007. Although I retain the role of “decider,” I did allow opinions expressed to me here and elsewhere influence this list. One story on the list was a favorite of several commenters, although I’d left it off my initial stab. Another that I was tentative about stayed on the list because it received support in the comments. But I did rule a few pieces out despite nominations. The Don DeLillo story, “Still Life,” for example, is not on this list. I liked that story, more than the novel from which it is excerpted, but I’m under the impression that the excerpting of that piece was not done by DeLillo himself but was done by The New Yorker’s editors. I find that disturbing and so I left it off the list. Sorry, Don. And I also didn’t include the Miranda July story, “Roy Spivey,” although that story continues to attract interest in Google searches that bring readers here. It apparently found a wide readership, but I didn’t love it.

So, here’s my long-list for story of the year, in chronological order:

1. “Teaching” by Roddy Doyle
2. “One Minus One” by Colm Tóibin
3. “Homework” by Helen Simpson
4. “Magda Mandela” by Hari Kunzru
5. “Swimming” by T Cooper
6. “Luda and Milena” by Lara Vapnyar
7. “Mr. Bones” by Paul Theroux
8. “Brooklyn Circle” by Alice Mattison
9. “Or Else” by Antonya Nelson
10. “Found Objects” by Jennifer Egan

Complaints?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I read "Or Else" yesterday because so many people mentioned it in their comments here. It really is a wonderful story. I still like David Foster Wallace's "Good People" even better, though clearly that story didn't garner enough interest to make the Top 10. "Good People" is so appealingly odd, plus I'm a sucker for stories about moral dilemmas.
Pamela

Anonymous said...

I didnt all New yorker published this year but I liked Sweetheart sorrow much better than anything Id read this year in magazine. Lucky Alan, though a bit long, was excellent too just for style if you didnt find storr or structure for any reason :)
Abhay

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you included "Found Objects." I thought it was terrific, especially the ending.
Pam

hobart said...

I too am glad to see the late addition of "Found Objects"!

sarahwrites said...

Just found your blog - really enjoyed going back over your year's worth of comments and reviews and refreshing my memory of my own reactions with yours.

"Or Else" and "Found Objects," along with William Trevor's "Bravado," were far and away my favorites of 2007. I liked the dialog in "Homework" and the characterizations in "Luda and Milena" but I didn't think they had the structural elegance of "Or Else" or "Found Objects" or the momentum of "Bravado." There were some very good sentences in "Brooklyn Circle" and it had a sure-footed beginning, but as it went on it seemed more careful to me than inspired, and a little too "written." I thought George Saunders "Puppy" was brilliant, if maybe unlovable, and its POV shift (big workshop no-no, of course) absolutely chilling.

Sarah

Clifford Garstang said...

Sarah,
Thanks for visiting and for your input. I suppose I'll continue this project through 2008, so please come back and chime in now and then.

"Momentum" is an interesting attribute for "Bravado." I agree, except that I thought it began too slowly, or began in the wrong place. Otherwise I liked it a lot. "Puppy" was well done but I found the POV shifts problematic, and not just because it's a workshop no-no (one that I violate as often as I think I can get away with). There needs to be a reason for it, and I didn't see it here.

As for "Brooklyn Circle" I had the feeling that it was part of a novel, and that annoys me about The New Yorker. But unlike some of the other obvious exerpts through the year, I did think it stood by itself.

Again, thanks for your comments!

sarahwrites said...

Thanks, Clifford!

Good point about "Bravado" - it made it a little awkward figuring out who the protagonist was.

And for a (probable) novel excerpt "Brooklyn Circle" did stand surprisingly well on its own.

Sarah

Paul Epstein said...

Although I love this concept, and am a fan of lists in general, there is a serious problem of bias here due to the fact that later stories are more easily remembered. This is reflected in the list which is heavily biased towards the last 3 months or so. Perhaps links to more stories could be given, along with the invitation to judge, in order to correct this bias.

Clifford Garstang said...

I'm sorry you're unhappy with the list, Paul. And you're probably right about the influence of memory. Hey, that's what happens with the Oscars, no? If there were something at stake here, like fame or fortune, I might make more of an effort to correct the problem. As for links, it was not until March that I discovered the stories were all online at The New Yorker's site and it was then that I started adding the links in my commentary. So January to mid-March there were no links. I'll correct that for 2008.

Having said that, since I had my notes from all the year's stories, my own memory was as balanced as I could make it without rereading everything. It's true that my tastes influenced the Top Ten - that seems unavoidable without burdening someone else. Is the list so heavily biased toward the last 3 months? I'd say it is a slight bias. The Top Ten includes stories from April (1), May (1), June (1), August (2), Sept. (2), Nov. (2) and Dec. (1). So just 3 of the Top Ten were from the last 3 months of the year.

The Top Five I chose partly from my own taste and partly from reader comments. There the bias might have been greater, but still we have one story each from June, August, September, November and December? Did my readers and I forget about the great stories from early in the year? Maybe.

All I can say is keep coming back in 2008 and keep making your case when you disagree with me, as you have been doing. I think it makes for a better dialogue about literature and I appreciate it!

Paul Epstein said...

I'm not unhappy with the list at all. I was merely pointing out a possible bias towards more recent stories. In fact, the monthly statistics illustrate my bias theory very well with Jan to March being not represented at all. (Admittedly, my comment about the last 3 months was inaccurate.) I personally voted for a recent story myself, being unable to remember stories from the beginning of the year so I'm a source of this bias myself. But none of this implies that the list is not a worthy list of notable stories. As to neither fame or fortune being at stake, don't be too modest in underestimating the influence of this blog. I've noticed that most bloggers on this site are established writers who've published in the literary magazines. As for myself, I have no literary skills or credentials and work for a bank as a computer programmer. In conclusion, thanks Clifford for such a valuable blog for all those who love American short fiction.

Paul Epstein