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