My Favorite Reads of 2014

As usual, my favorite reads were published predominantly by small presses, written by writers unafraid of taking chances with their work:

I bookended the year with collections by the innovative Robert Vaughan: Diptychs + Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits (blurbed, reviewed on Goodreads) and Addicts & Basements, also reviewed on Goodreads.

Every Kiss a War by Leesa Cross-Smith, just a beautiful collection, I blurbed and reviewed on Goodreads and interviewed Leesa here on this blog!

I also read and blurbed Nancy Stohlman’s book Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories. Nancy is another original who performs her stories live as well as she writes them.

I read Avital Gad-Cykman’s chapbook recently released from Matter Press: Life In, Life Out, and reviewed it on Goodreads and interviewed Avital right here on this blog.

If I Would Leave Myself Behind: Stories by Lauren Becker, which I also talked about here.

Understories by Tim Horvath, which is terrific and I gave five stars to on Goodreads.

I read two Gay Degani books in 2014, her collection, Pomegranate Stories and her novel What Came Before, which I blurbed and reviewed on Goodreads. I also interviewed Gay right here and she has lots of smart things to say about writing in general.

Bald New World by Peter Tieryas, reviewed on Goodreads. This book was recently nominated for the Folio Prize in the UK.

Bones of an Inland Sea by Mary Akers, reviewed on Goodreads.

The Last Days of California by Mary Miller, reviewed on Goodreads.

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay, reviewed on Goodreads.

My Mother Was An Upright Piano by the talented and versatile writer of flash as well as longer works, Tania Hershman, reviewed on Goodreads.

Girl with Ears & Demon with Limp by Edward J. Rathke, reviewed on Goodreads.

Doll Palace by Sara Lippmann, this book was one of my favorite short story collections of 2014 and one of my favorites, ever…reviewed at The Lit Pub.

Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life by Dani Shapiro, a great inspiration in 2014 and mentioned in various posts on this blog.

I reread The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (who incidentally drafted the novel in four weeks according to this article in The Guardian).

Understudies by Ravi Mangla, reviewed on Goodreads.

House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Don’t Tease the Elephants by Jen Knox. blurbed and reviewed on Goodreads.

Quarry Light by Claudia Smith Chen, reviewed at The Lit Pub.

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan. A fascinating, harrowing read.

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life by Twyla Tharp, another inspiring read, also mentioned a time or two on this very blog.

Smokelong Quarterly: The Best of the First Ten Years 2003-2013, a book I contributed to and reviewed on Goodreads.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill, reviewed on Goodreads. I loved this book so much I read it twice.

Some very kind reviews for Together We Can Bury It…

my copies of TWCBI

I’m very grateful for the kind reviews I’ve received so far for my recently re-issued flash/short story collection on Goodreads, NANOfiction, Fictionaut, and elsewhere. Here is a sampling:

“Most of what I know about flash fiction I learned from reading Kathy Fish’s work. She’s a consummate master of the short form, and I’m so glad Lit Pub ran a second printing of this collection. These are the sort of stories that deepen and intensify with each rereading. Keep them close at hand.” Ravi Mangla, author of Understudies Goodreads

“This book is a Bible of the short form, meant to be savored then reread again and again. No one does compressed fiction like Kathy Fish. Her precision is unparalleled. Every detail, every line, every word does double, triple duty. Every beat is flawless. The stories in this stunning collection brim with such fullness and depth, they will break you up and cut you down – and leave you utterly mystified, wondering about the lives of these characters long after you finish reading. How does she accomplish all this in so few words? There lies the astounding genius of Kathy Fish.” Sara Lippmann, author of Doll Palace 

“So much attention is paid to the lyricism in each of the stories that a reader can’t help but find the beauty in each scene and through each character’s perspective no matter how familiar or mundane it may at first seem. There are so many examples of this lyricism at play in the collection but the language in “Rodney and Chelsea” stood out to me the most. In this story, the two titular characters, teen neighbors, are about to engage in their first sexual experience together. It’s a moment of great anticipation and anxiety, yet the narrative sweeps around them meticulously, not only registering their expressions and subtle movements, but their life histories, the space they share living next door to each other, and essential connections they share with family, friends, and neighbors. The entire moment is exquisitely rendered in just four pages, and it’s such a virtuoso accomplishment of prosody that I had to reread it twice more just before I could move on.” Peter Fontaine, NANOfiction NANOfiction

“If I were teaching a course in the form of very short fiction (not all of these stories are very short), I would certainly put Kathy Fish’s collection on my syllabus. In fact, I might just teach a course because I’ve read her collection. In sudden fiction, the writer/reader has no space for meandering or groping through the narrative for a story. Each move must stick, and in Fish’s stories every move does. Each beginning draws the reader in, and every ending satisfies. The middle is bursting with realism that does not seem constructed to be realism; it feels real and, yes, meaty.” Christopher Allen, author of Conversations with S. Teri O’Type (A Satire) Books at Fictionaut

“Fish’s writing is like a light gleaming up from the bottom of the lake, distorting itself as refracted waves curl or undulate. Her characters ring true yet they keep an appropriate aloofness. We both feel as if we know these people, as if they are friends or acquaintances in our own lives, yet it is often like we are watching these friends behave badly on screen so that we’re powerless to intervene.” Len Kuntz, author of The Dark Sunshine and forthcoming, I’m Not Supposed to Be Here and Neither Are You People You Know By Heart

“Read this on a train back to Baltimore. On the train were people in McDonalds uniforms making loud and beautiful jokes because they’d stolen a bunch of mayonnaise. If inside a jar of stolen mayonnaise you found a tiny Nina Simone singing her cover of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” and you get to the part where she goes “Well that’s it folks, that’s it,” you would actually be getting to the sad and wan stories in this collection. And then this book sneaks the mayo back to where it stole it from, but it listens to Nina Simone on its off-brand MP3 player while drinking ginger ale at the mall, just wandering and wandering and remembering and trying not to regret anything.” Mike Young, author of Look! Look! Feathers! and Who Can Make It Big Noö Journal

“The worlds in this collection are often a little lopsided, a little worn, sometimes dark and piercing, yet always beautiful in one way or another. They never tip over into sentimentalism or conceit and give the feeling that anything can happen, good and bad. But whatever does happen, you know it will be brave and honest, in the most human sense of the word.” Berit Ellingsen, author of Beneath the Liquid Skin Berit Ellingsen’s blog

“A sweepingly excellent collection of 40 stories, a sort of retrospecticus of Kathy Fish’s writing career so far. Everything about this book is well-done…The stories themselves: amazing. There’s no filler: every story is aching and gorgeous.” Kevin Fanning, author of Jennifer Love Hewitt Times Infinity Goodreads

“These stories possess a clear and believable voice that is at home in the company of Lydia Davis, Russell Edson, Kim Chinquee. Fish breathes life to the page, so much so, the characters and actions stay with the reader long after the book is closed…The book is filled with so many strange and amazing moments the reader cannot avoid becoming a part of the lives and choices and passions discovered in it. This can only happen when the writing is of the highest quality and a true pleasure to read. “Highest quality” is the perfect descriptive for Together We Can Bury It – a collection that should not be missed.” Sam Rasnake, author of Cinéma Vérité and Inside a Broken Clock Used Furniture Review

“Kathy Fish’s Together We Can Bury It is so creative and beautifully written, it’s hard not to marvel at the richness in each of the pieces.” Peter Tieryas, author of Bald New World and Watering Heaven The Whimsy of Creation

“Within, you will find stories that will touch you, leave you breathless, make you laugh, make your heart ache. You will run the gamut of emotions–I promise you that–and you will find yourself living in the moment of these stories as filled with despair and hope as many of the characters are, waiting for change that may never come, but always waiting, never giving up.” Myfanwy Collins, author of Echolocation and I Am Holding Your Hand and forthcoming, The Book of Laney Myfanwy Collins’ blog

“There’s a movie’s worth of character and plot and insight in every blooming one of these short fictions. I finished this book feeling stuffed, dazed, and amazed by how much Kathy Fish gets done in such tight spaces. It’s a thrill to be privy to what she thinks about, the wonder she carries inside.” Pia Ehrhardt, author of Famous Fathers Goodreads

“Some authors have a way of mak
ing a reader forget the world, forget that she’s reading, allowing pure enjoyment of the art of story. This is especially difficult to pull off with reading author/teachers. We feel the pull to be critical, cautious, and read with our defenses up, ready to find something that jostles us from the narrative. Very few authors have the ability to make such a reader forget, and even fewer flash fiction and short fiction writers have this ability because the form means creating numerous worlds and engaging the reader wholly again with each new story. Some authors can do it, though. Kathy Fish is one. This book is a gift for a reader like me.” Jen Knox, author of Musical Chairs and To Begin Again Goodreads

“Beautiful collection by a master of the flash fiction form. These stories pack more loneliness, heartbreak, and despair into smaller spaces than ought to be possible, given the laws of narrative physics. But as one of Kathy Fish’s characters tells us: “this is an infinite universe and in an infinite universe all things are mathematically possible.” And yet, I still don’t know how she does it.” Mary Lynn Reed Goodreads

“1. I LOVE these stories. “Skinny Lullaby at the Lizard Lounge: Schenectady” where she writes: “The lady on the stage is skinny-singing something Joni Mitchell. We drink fuzzy navels. Get sleepy. Slide into each other like river otters.” I really LOVE “Snow” and “Wake Up” and “Be My Be My Baby” and “This is Dwight” and “Lens” and “Orlando” and “Tenderoni.” What I’m trying to say is that I love them all.
2. I love how Kathy Fish writes about: men & women, snow, food, cocktails, homes and music.
3. I love how Kathy Fish describes colors.
4. My husband is a VERY persnickety reader. I read a lot of these little stories aloud to him and he loved them as much as I do.
5. And I don’t feel this way about all stories/books I read but Kathy’s stories make me want to WRITE. And that’s probably my favorite thing about all of them.” Leesa Cross-Smith, author of Every Kiss a War Goodreads