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Flash Fiction Forward: 80 Very Short Stories Paperback – August 17, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In their second collection of "flash fiction" stories-aka "short shorts"-Thomas and Shapard have pulled together almost 80 works that are consistently swift and powerful, distilling the intricacies and flourish of short fiction into just a few pages. In "The Memory Priest of the Creech People," Paul Theroux's protagonist preserves the collective memory of the Creech people before he is cannibalized by his constituency. Hannah Bottomy's "Currents" replays in reverse the events surrounding the drowning of a young boy. Ron Carlson's "The Great Open Mouth Anti-Sadness" witnesses a father laying drunk on his bed after his daughter's wedding, feeling the whirl of the overhead fan and struggling to name his emotions. Jack Handey's darkly comic "The Voices in My Head," Lon Otto's parable of debating sloths in Costa Rica and David Galef's hilarious "My Date with Neaderthanal Woman" provide laughs. Profound revelations develop in Leonardo's Alishan's "The Black City," in which a minor shaving injury provides the vehicle for a frightening psychological journey; and in Barbara Jackson's "Gemoetry Can Fail Us," in which a man's struggle to fell a tree leads to surprising insight into his wife's love. Exquisite entries from a number of other notable authors, including John Edgar Wideman, Richard Bausch, A.M. Homes, Dave Eggers, John Updike, Amy Hempel, Tony Earley and Rick Moody will also delight. Ranging in style from crisp, sober realism to outlandish surrealism, these small treasures make a convincing argument for the relevance and vitality of this little-celebrated genre.
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From Booklist

Flash Fiction (1992) promulgated the joys of very short stories and started a trend. The "flash" approach has proven extremely popular for writers and readers alike, and the editors were curious as to why. Is it because our attention span has atrophied, thanks to our ardor for instant messaging and other snap electronic communications? Or is it because stories no longer than 750 words are compressed in the way that poetry is concentrated, so that flash fiction has impact and is memorable? Although the form is concise, the subjects broached tend to be substantial, and it is a particular pleasure to read these pared-to-the-bone stories that cover the spectrum from blithe to intense, funny to sad. The 80 writers gathered here range from emerging to well known. John Edgar Wideman imagines a man in the rain with a banana. Katharine Weber makes babysitting mysterious. Ander Monson presents "To Reduce Your Likelihood of Murder." Charles Baxter, Grace Paley, Ray Gonzalez, Ann Hood, Melanie Rae Thon, Richard Bausch, and John Updike all appear like flashes of lightning. Donna Seaman
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 237 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (August 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393328023
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393328028
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,311 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
Maybe it's the pace of a society bedeviled by technology and the demands of busy lives. Maybe just an interesting form of fiction, concise, clear and sophisticated; in any case "flash" fiction challenges the parameters of the traditional short story, the editors asking, "How short can a story be and truly be a story?" With over eighty selections, this collection is representative of the creative efforts of those who have taken up the gauntlet, such writers as Paul Theroux, Jim Crace, Ann Hood, Rick Moody, Richard Bausch, Dave Eggers and John A McCaffrey.

The subjects of these flash fictions are not minor or trivial, but distilled, much like poetry. Most important, they are memorable. Writer Richard Bausch ("1951"), a writer used to creating longer pieces, found in condensing his story that "in order to make it work in so small a space its true subject must be proportionately larger". Indeed, Bausch accomplishes much in a few pages, the power of loss and responsibility sitting upon the narrow shoulders of one small girl. Ann Hood's "The Doctor" dissects the weight of a father's death with elegant precision, a refusal to forgive the physician who now pursues the grieving daughter: "He can't lose my father and win the girl, too."

In a paean to loneliness and frustration, Rick Moody's rambling "Drawer" contains the emotions of a lifetime, a man's inner diatribe at the pretensions of a woman who could not, would not give of herself, locked into the lexicon of her possessions, unavailable. "The Mesmerist" by Michael Knight is chilling, Svengali-like in intent, as one man assumes power over his unsuspecting victim, the young woman who has captured his imagination and his desire.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Tyson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 19, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Don't get me wrong, I love a thick juicy novel as much as anyone, but there is something truly astonishing about the creative genius that can be put into 1-2 page stories. I am a huge huge fan of flash fiction and am personally shocked there aren't more anthologies like this out there. Maybe it won't replace the novel, or even the regular-length short story, but as society becomes more and more ADD I have a feeling FF is going to be here to stay.

As far as this collection goes, there are definitely some amazing stories in here as well as a good number of duds. The good news is that the most time you'll waste reading a bad story is about 1-3 minutes. Unlike a bad novel, where you may be wasting 12+ hours of your life!

These are the stories that stuck out to me as exceedingly excellent in one way or another:

-Sashimi Cashmere, Carolyn Forde
-Sleeping, Katharine Weber
-The Voices in My Head, Jack Handey
-Why You Shouldn't Have Gone in the First Place, Samantha Schoech
-Bullhead, Leigh Allison Wilson
-Accident, Dave Eggers
-Words, John A. McCaffrey
-The Black City, Leonardo Alishan
-That Could Have Been You, Jim Heynen
-How to End Up, Jennifer A. Howard
-The Orange, Benjamin Rosenbaum
-21, Jim Crace
- To Reduce Your Liklihood of Murder, Ander Monson
-Crazy Glue, Etgar Keret
-Pledge Drive, Patricia Marx
-The Handbag, Michael Augustin
-Parrot Talk, Kit Coyne Irwin
-The Death of the Short Story, J. David Stevens

So yeah, that's about 18/80 really good stories. Maybe that's only a 20%, but truthfully even the ones not mentioned weren't that bad, just less note-worthy. I only mention these because I found them to be truly spectacular. If you don't have time to read the whole book, you should at least check these out. Then read the others, they're good too.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Crea19 on June 28, 2013
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I give this 4 starts just because its for school, so I didn't buy this out of my own personal interest. I will say, however, that the stories are really good. I read one of them and was smacked in the face by how profound an effect it had. The stories are incredibly short, but they live this sense that something amazing has just been read. Theses authors know their stuff. If you're looking for a good short story that's maybe a page and a half per, then definitely pick this up.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By ArtGirl on November 23, 2013
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Great book! Selections are quite varied and I found new authors represented, plus a few faves I have had for a long time. This is a good book for reading selections aloud and then using it for discussion of literature. Highly recommended.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J B Summersnow on February 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
You can read any of these 80 stories whenever you have a free few minutes. From the very first story I was hooked. I wondered whether some of them were "short stories" at all but rather poetry or some other form. But no matter, they were funny, sad, dark and light. Very enjoyable and recommended.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Grama J on May 16, 2012
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It was very hard not to set my life aside and just tear through this book. I'm limiting myself to just a few per sitting; I can't bear to use it up. The stories are magnificent: beautifully written, incredibly moving, totally engrossing. Highly highly highly recommend.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By R. J. Middleton on September 16, 2007
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These stories are beautifully written and crafted, so short, so significant. They are easy to read, hard to forget. Like stones dropped in wells, they ripple through your mind in ever widening rings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rachel Peters on November 18, 2013
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This is a fantastic read. It really changed my thinking on fiction and short stories as each selection is so brief and to the point. To me, these are much more realistic and engaging than most fiction--they feel more like lyric essays, or brief snapshots of someone's life. It's easy to read and good for someone not looking to commit to a long novel. I would definitely recommend this.
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