Monday, December 24, 2012

New Yorker Fiction 2012

This year the New Yorker published 50 pieces of fiction. I read 34 of them. 

Here were my eight favorites:

A Brief Encounter with the Enemy (Jan. 16), by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh. 

Sayrafiezadeh is becoming one of my new favorite writers. A previous story of his, "Paranoia," was on my list last year. This one, with its titular echo of Flannery O'Connor, was a disturbing war story that felt utterly true despite its obvious inventedness.

A Prairie Girl (Feb. 27) and The Casserole (Sep. 10), by Thomas McGuane

In the past twelve years, McGuane has been among the ten most frequently published writers of fiction in the New Yorker. Unfortunately, I typically find his work uninteresting. But this year he had two stories in the magazine that I thought were quite good. "A Prairie Girl" was a piquant tale of a determined heroine unbowed by conscience or sentiment; "The Casserole" a very brief story with a great ending.

The Proxy Marriage (May 21), by Maile Meloy 

I'm planning on teaching some stories from Maile Meloy's most recent story collection this coming semester. I'm tempted to bring in this story as well—one of the sweetest I've ever read in the magazine.

An Abduction (July 9), by Tessa Hadley 

Over the past twelve years, only Alice Munro has had more fiction published in the New Yorker than Tessa Hadley. Whereas I love Munro (a frequent flier on my year-end lists of favorites, though not this year), I find Hadley to be spottier. Sometimes I skip her stories; sometimes I like them a lot. This particular story was rather Munrovian, now that I think about it: a story of a young woman put into a situation in which she behaved differently than she would have expected, with an ending that leaps far into her future and reflects back on the episode's significance.

The Third-Born (Sep. 24), by Mohsin Hamid 

Told in the second person, this piece is an excerpt from a forthcoming novel called How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, a book I definitely want to read. The story grippingly puts us into a world of poverty and desperation.

The Semplica-Girl Diaries (Oct. 15), by George Saunders 

Saunders is always on my year-end lists, but this story, I think, is one of his best of all time, a chilling tale of parenting, materialism, and today's economy.

Ox Mountain Death Song (Oct. 29), by Kevin Barry 

This tale of crime and punishment won me over with its narrative voice, tinged with Irish vernacular.

The sixteen stories I skipped were mostly by writers that I've grown tired of. Occasionally I would start a story and find it so uninteresting that I wouldn't finish it. For some reason I didn't read any of the fiction in the Science Fiction issue. I read every story published from August through December, and half of the ones published from January to July.

Did I miss any stories that you thought were great? Let me know. 

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