Best of 2011: Robert Vaughan Lays Down His Cards

Next in our series “Best List,”  jmww Flash Editor Robert Vaughan lays out his top books of 2011, and what a full house it is!

1. Chronology of Water– Lidia Yuknavitch (Hawthorne Books)

This memoir re-defines the category eternally. A profoundly honest, brutal, and ecstatic celebration of life against all odds. I was so moved at times by this book that I had to set it down.

2. Men in the Making– Bruce Marchart (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

I could only read one of these stories per day, they were that achingly lush, and beautiful gems. Harsh, poignant, spare. From start to finish.

3.   Domestic Apparition– Meg Tuite (San Francisco Bay Press)

Just when you think you’re done reading every dysfunctional family story you possibly could, Tuite re-defines them in her own, sliced-to-the-sheer bone, effortless prose.

4.  Heavy Petting– Gregory Sherl (Yes Yes Books)

Hilariously irreverent and bawdy, clever, slick and fun. But don’t get too cozy, because the vulnerability slide into these flashes of life with electric slides.

5.   Ayiti– Roxane Gay (Artistically Declined Press)

Haiti shimmers through these stunning stories, as Gay blends fiction, non-fiction, and her signature prose poetry. Similar to memoir, without the self-indulgences.

6.  Volt– Alan Heathcock (Graywolf Press)

These stories are gut-wrenching, full of heartache, truth and disparities. Heathcock balances stark realism with lyrical lifting energy, carving beauty out of a savage world.

7.  American Masculine– Shann Ray (Graywolf Press)

The lines contain a muscular grace, and Ray is a master of a new twist on the myth and legends of the American West. This debut is an ode to the country we no longer inhabit.

8.  Train Dreams– Denis Johnson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

A particularly gripping novella, akin to an out of print B-side. Johnson continues to write about the down and out, originally published in 2003 in The Paris Review. It’s so original, I forgotten that I’d already read it once before.

9.  In This Light- Melanie Rae Thon (Graywolf Press)

Thon combines dazzling uncompromising characters with language that leaves me breathless. I felt as if I was experiencing these stories rather than reading them.

10.  Various Men Who Knew Us As Girls– Cris Mazza (Emergency Press)

A long time fan of Mazza, this novel takes on human trafficking, a vile subject still relevant today. This is a tough, yet thoughtful read.

Honorable Mentions:

 They Could No Longer Contain Themselves– (Rose Metal Press) A collection of five chaps from Elizabeth J. Colen, John Jodzio, Tim Jones- Yelvington, Sean Lovelace, and Mary Miller

Normally Special– xTx (Tiny Hardcore Press)

 Freight– Mel Bosworth (Folded Word)

Stories for Night-Time and Some for the Day– Ben Loory (Penguin)

How the Days of Love & Diphtheria– Robert Kloss (MLP, Nephew)

9 responses to “Best of 2011: Robert Vaughan Lays Down His Cards

  1. Pingback: “Domestic Apparition” was included in the Best of 2011 book list up at JMWW by Robert Vaughan | Meg Tuite's Blog·

  2. So glad that you love Graywolf Press, along with so many other indie press titles here. A wonderful way you have with describing these books, also.


  3. The disgusting sight of Lidia’s boob on the cover will keep me from coming anywhere near the Chronology of Water, regardless of reviews.


  4. First of all, Bob, to each his own. I feel sorry for you that an image as lovely as this would cause you to lose out on such an important memoir. Also know that when someone orders the book, there is a wraparound “cover,” so that the part of the anatomy that you show such vehemence for, is actually “covered.”


  5. I think the cover is totally hot. Man, I don’t read much (especial books), but I’d buy it with a cover like that. I think I will.
    I used to read ‘Variations’ until they stopped publishing it. I would recomend that magazine, if you want a good read with great stories.
    I hope this water book is like Variations.
    Great cover.


  6. Pingback: shit where have i been hello young cocoa butter who is you | valium·

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