Sunday, December 20, 2015

The 2015 Short Story Advent Calendar editied by Michael Hingston

As I write this it is January 1, 2016 but I will post it in 2015.  My challenge to read 100 short stories in 2015 was ignored for much of the year but it was in the last two months that I made an effort to accomplish it.

I've been reading a few collections in those months and have been reviewing the stories individually, in draft form, with the plan to publish them once I completed the collections.  So, in the effort to track my reading in 2015, below is a review of the stories read from the collections I have not completed.  As I finish the collections I will count them towards my 2016 goal.



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I read about this project a couple of months ago. I found it appealing because of it's limited print run, only 1,000 made, the project was created locally and it simply looked lovely.

1 Flamingo by Jessica Westhead - 
67/100 - This was a sad, touching, dreary story that left me wondering what I just read. 

Stories where nothing truly happens and characters are no different at the end then how they started make me feel like I've wasted my time. 

2 The Princess Doctrine by Chris Bachelder - 
68/100 - Part Princess Bride and partly a comical look at political decision making. 

In the world of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale the king and his lords must decide on a plan of action to protect the newly born princess. 

Very entertaining. 

3 Bison Burgers by Lee Henderson - 
69/100 - Two adult siblings are invited to their father's newly purchased bison ranch.  They miss the turn to the ranch house so they park and decide to walk across the pastures in an attempt to find the house.  

It's during that walk where we learn about the brother and sister, father and mother.  Conversation, speculation and realization come together on the brisk Alberta foothills afternoon.


4 Flex by Naomi K. Lewis - 
70/100 - This was a weird little time travel story about an out a college under-achiever working for his girlfriend's brother.

The brother is working a strange angle with flex-time on a contract job.  What I liked about it was how the author managed to tell the second half of the story backwards.

5 Americas by Jason Lee Norman
71/100 - This was a touching collection of "facts" from Central American countries.  I use quotes because I am not sure of any if these fascinating points, some sound like legends, some like hearsay, are true.  I suspect they are, which I would make me happy, because the world is a strange and beautiful place and it is good to hear about it. 

6 No One Else Really Wants to Listen by Heather Birrell
72/100 - I had to force my way through this one.  Firstly, it was written as a series of posts to a chat room, a venue I cannot tolerate. Then the subject did not capture me, simply because I am male.  Yup, it was a chat room full of pregnant women. In my own defense, I am a father of two girls so I have some experience with the subject but it never happened to ME, you know?

7 Laplanders by Zsuzsi Gartner
73/100 - Here is another literary story where nothing really happens, except kind of.  Two young people meet on a trip to China.  They are very different from each other and her personality deeply affects him. They part after the trip but it is the boy who is changed by the encounter and from it others are also affected.

It was a rather dull story and yet somehow interesting.  Makes me think that even brief interactions can alter perceptions and that every person you meet can be important in your life.

8 When Orphans Glowed in the Dark by Heather O'Neil
74/100 - A heart-wrenching story about orphans returning from the war.  It is filled with tales about how these kids coped with their circumstances.

9 Wrestling by Rosemary Nixon
75/100 - Man I did not like this story.  Crazy, religious fanatics occupy the same room as serial killers in fiction for me.  Crazy people are crazy! There is no understanding them, just run away.  Thank goodness it was a short story; if it was a novel I would have thrown it across the room.

10 Two-Part Invention by Doretta Lau
76/100 - This was a cute story about a single woman who decides she would like to only date dead men.  In it she meets Glenn Gould.  Charming.

11 There Is Good in the World
77/100 - Man, there really is terrible stuff published everywhere.  I hated this one; it made no sense and was just stupid.

12 Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus by Eliza Robertson
78/100 Again, another bullshit story where a man has a nothing life and does nothing with a future that looks like he'll continue to do nothing.  What is the point of this thing?

13 Jobbers by Spencer Gordon
79/100 Finally a decent story.  A sad story of two kids coping with a dysfunctional family situation by pretending to be WWF professional wrestlers.  Touching.

14 Valerie's Bush by Nancy Jo Cullen
80/100 - An interesting story about how a "hair cut" can lead to a life change and a letting go of the past.  I liked it.

15 God Loves Hair by Vivek Shraya
81/100 - A touching story of a young Indian boy growing up in the neighbourhood of Millwoods, Edmonton, struggling to fit in and to understand and accept his own sexuality.  Coming of age is confusing and difficult.

16 The Story of Patricia
82/100 - A shepherd boy tells stories to his oxen.  They don't understand what he is saying but they ate very interested.  Seems strange but somehow it works.

17 The Prize Jury by C. P. Boyko
83/100 - What fun.  It really spoke to the world of literary fiction, novelists and literary prizes.  It was, funny, sad, enlightening and infuriating all at once. Very well done.

18 Statistical Abstract for My Hometown, Spokane, Washington/Addendum by Jess Walter
84/100 - A fabulous story. Written in bullet points I could not help but relate to everything the author said.  Spokane is much like Edmonton in so many ways.  The Addendum was the best part of it.

19 Robin by David Whitton
85/100 - A heart-thumping read.  We hear what is going through a young woman's mind as she plunges to her death from a seventh story balcony.

20 A Luckless Santa Claus by F. Scott Fitzgerald
86/100 - First published in 1912 it is still fresh and funny and relevant to today.  It's also the first Christmas story in the collection.

21 Raccoons by Russell Smith
87/100 - Yikes! Men can be so stupid.  Here is a man trying to end an affair while trying to cover it up from his family.  It as very well done. You just know the whole thing will blow up in his face.

22 What Tells by Jacqueline Baker
88/100 -  Yet another navel-gazing, nothing-happens and nothing-changes story about a normal, dysfunctional-feeling family going out for a picnic.   God another waste of my time.

23 The Pigeon Cove Festival of Lights by Kevin Wilson
89/100 - I really liked this one.  It had the feeling of being a fable.  All the families of a cul-de-sac decorate their homes with increasing amounts of lights, turning the little street into a tourist attraction.

24- How I Saved Christmas by Richard Van Camp
90/100 - This one was a bit off kilter until I found the voice of the narrator.  A young high-schooler trying to cope with the realities of living in a small community in NWT.  Here we learn how he himself has learned to cope and how he convinces a local to continue being Santa Clause for the yearly festivities.

This is where I ended in the collection.  Christmas was upon me and I had no time to complete it.  I will soon read and review the last story in the box.

25 Rock Crystal by Adalbert Stifter
Xx/100 -  

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