Monday, January 12, 2009

The Short List, Long List, Other Notable Books--Whatever

It looks like it's going to take me a little while to post a page of Other Notable Books published in 2008 (which is what we call our shortlist/longlist) on The Story Prize Web site. That's because I write a paragraph on each book, and that involves flipping through the collections again to refresh my memory and sometimes rereading a story or two. So I guess I might as well just go ahead and put out the list. Here it is:

A Better Angel by Chris Adrian (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan (Little Brown)
The Development by John Barth (Houghton Mifflin)
The View from the Seventh Layer by Kevin Brockmeier (Pantheon)
Ms. Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum (Harcourt)
The Drowned Life by Jeffrey Ford (HarperCollins)
I See You Everywhere by Julia Glass (Pantheon)
The Boat by Nam Le (Knopf)
Dangerous Laughter by Steven Millhauser (Knopf)
Fine Just the Way It Is by Annie Proulx (Scribner)*
Glass Grapes and Other Stories by Martha Ronk (BOA Editions)
The Size of the World by Joan Silber (W.W. Norton)
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (Random House)
Legend of a Suicide by David Vann (University of Massachusetts Press)

Compare this list to the tally I made in December of short story collections named to yearend best books list (or don't because I'm about to), and you'll see a lot of overlap. Ten of the 14 books on this list, plus two of our finalists (Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth and Tobias Wolff's Our Story Begins)--for a total of 12--overlapped with the 22 books listed on that post. I'd add, that six of those books weren't entered for The Story Prize, so it's really 12 out of 16.

On the other hand, there are five books on our list that I didn't see mentioned in any yearend lists (though in all fairness I stopped counting on Dec. 15). What explains this? For one, there's the old (but true) saw that there's no accounting for taste. Secondly, we probably read more story collections than anyone picking books for those lists, so our field was bigger.

Still, I can't help but feel that some very good books were overlooked. To begin with, I didn't see finalist Joe Meno's Demons in the Spring on any yearend list and, obviously, if we think it's good enough to be a finalist, we feel like that's a major ommission. Demons was well-reviewed when it was reviewed, which wasn't enough. I also find it surprising that I didn't see John Barth's The Development--which gave me as much pleasure as any book I read--on any lists.

In any event, I'll give some of my thoughts on particular books on this list in upcoming posts and say more about our finalists soon.

* Note: We got Annie Proulx's collection in galley form, hence the white spine on the book fifth from the right.