- Publisher: Matter Press (2011)
- ISBN-10: 0983792801
- ISBN-13: 978-0983792802
- Package Dimensions: 9 x 6.5 x 0.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,183,782 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Wild Life Paperback – 2011
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Wild Life is a collection of thirty-four (34) "undomesticated" flash fiction pieces. "Keep this book on your bedside table. Dog-ear it until all the pages are folded. Read it in the bath, teach it, store it in your bag, recite it on street corners. When people stop to ask you what you are doing, tell them that you are reading aloud from a collection by the best flash fiction writer in America." ~ Amelia Gray, Author of AM/PM and Museum of The Weird “People often say the purpose of flash fiction is to shine a spotlight, to illuminate, to light up our lives, a flash of insight. This to me has always seemed a dull reason to do anything, much less write or read flash fiction. And I think Kathy Fish proves the point, here in this book. Who cares what she may teach us, in flashes of blinding light or otherwise, in these stories so carefully built, so wonderfully turned of phrase. What Kathy does is expose us not to insight but to mystery. She puts us in the middle of these worlds she’s made and says, Look what I’ve seen. And then when we do, when we come to these stories’ ends, we shudder with confusion and love.” ~ Joseph Young, Author of Easter Rabbit and Name
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Fish's wry humor, keen vision, and deft language will leaving you laughing one minute and crying the next. She is not manipulative with her words. She does not scream her stories. She does not thrust them down your throat. She offers them to you quietly. She offers them to you as a whispered prayer. In fact, what she does is trust you with her unique and precious gift.
Take, for example, "One Purple Finch" a gentle and unexpected love story that is utterly complex in its beautiful simplicity:
"He would make pancakes for her, with berries and honey. And she would life the hem of her skirt. And she would build him a fire. And he would make her a card, drawing a picture on the front, of trees and one purple finch. And they would look at each other at the end of the day and say now what should we do? We should be friends forever and hold each other's hands and tell each other when we have something stuck between our teeth and trade anecdotes and say oh you told me this before but I love hearing you tell it, so tell it to me again. And you should untie my sneakers when I am weary and I will wear the silky aquamarine robe when you want me to."
All of the pieces in this book moved me in some way, but the one that will not ever let me go is "Spin" which is about a mother and her young child. As a teacher tries to get the mother to "redirect" her child and teach him how to conform to a certain way of learning, she remembers her past life, mourns her imagined present, and learns to live in the moment and the successes that seem small, but are immeasurable. I would argue that this story will push its way into even the hardest heart and that once the reader gets to the end, he will understand this mother's heartache and her incredible love:
"When she finished, she found him lying flat under the sofa cushions. She wondered if she was supposed to unbury him. She sat on the floor and leaned in as close as she could. She felt the boy's breath on her face. It smelled like apples.
'Hello in there,' she whispered."
This book is a gift and I hope you will read it.
In Kathy Fish's slim volume of flash and micro-fiction stories, Wild Life, she splits the collection into two halves, the first entitled Wild ("The lioness is crouching.") and the second entitled Life ("Grundy Triplets Perish Unnecessarily"). And there is a reason for this. While both sections deal with family (even though the subtitle to the collection is "a collection of undomesticated flash fictions") the first part has a feeling of chaos, and a lack of control, while the second part hints at the day-to-day events and mundane entertainments that we often take for granted.
Kathy Fish is at her best when she mixes a blend of bitter and sweet to create an air of nostalgia, sentiment and understanding. The first story in this collection is entitled "Watermelon." Take this excerpt for example:
"You left anyway, hitchhiked all the way to Houston, and one night months later we looked up and saw you at the table, eating watermelon in the dark."
She focuses on the relationship between two brothers, which eventually descends into mockery and violence, that's just what brothers do--sisters, sometimes too. But underneath the words and the sharp tongues, there is usually a layer of love, and loss, and longing. When you say, "I never liked you, ugliestworstmosthorrible brother ever" what you really mean is "stay."
Later, in "The Cartoonist," she shows how in only a handful of sentences she can create a vivid tapestry--weaving family, setting, and emotions together. As a family sits around the dinner table, a mundane event if ever there was one, a crow flies down the chimney. Chaos ensues. But if you listen closely, you'll hear the father say, "sit down you lunatic," to his frantic wife, the last line slipping through your fingertips to punch you in the gut:
"Big brother in the shadows, slumped against the doorway, his baggy jeans and narrowed eyes. Draw him smaller than everything else."
So much weight in those last two sentences, so much life packed into this one moment of undoing.
And that's part of what makes this sixty-six-page book so rich. Observations unfold into prose poetry, long sentences stretching out into conversations that layer on meaning and depth. Pay attention, you don't want to miss a word. Who else but a writer disguised as a poet (or maybe a poet disguised as a writer) could call a sick son who thrashes on the couch, "post-apocalypse," to invent a new juxtaposition of words that makes you pause to consider what is happening in front of you, nodding your head, wishing you had written that phrase.
Every time I relaxed and faded into the scenes on the page, I was rewarded with a punishing turn of phrase that left me muttering to myself, caught unaware once again. This from "Cancer Arm":
"It's Thanksgiving and you are six years old. Your knee socks are pulled up over your kneecaps. Rusty, your Golden Retriever, is under the table and now and then you drop a piece of turkey on the floor for him. What you'd really like is a Tollhouse cookie or some muskmelon, cut into chunks. You think Rusty's distended stomach is from eating too much, though in truth, he hardly eats at all. He won't make it to Christmas and neither will your father. Everyone knows this but you."
Have you been here? Ever come home from college asking, "Where's Whiskers?" only to get sad eyes that won't meet your question, the water bowl no longer sitting in the utility room. To be a child and to lose a pet, it's such a devastating experience--to lose a parent, even worse. For a second take the pain that you know is coming to sit with that child, and place it squarely in the chest of the surviving parent, in this case, the mother. Now you see what has been shown.
Sometimes life is just cruel. I have a soft spot for kittens and puppies, I mean, really, who doesn't? But I also have a morbid sense of curiosity. Don't you look at the road kill when you pass the furry mess on the side of the road, wondering to yourself, "What was that? Raccoon? Possum? Cat? Oh, please don't let that be a cat." I can't think of much that is more unsettling than the way that a relationship is whittled down to the bare bones in "Tenderoni" as a couple discusses a furry gray mess, a dead kitten, fighting over how best to deal with this mess, and in one moment the whole relationship dissolves, like the sticky fluff on the side of the gravel road, nothing certain in a world like this.
Kathy Fish has the uncanny ability to reduce life's most intimate and revealing moments into a flash of insight and wisdom. Wild Life is a touching, bittersweet, unsettling collection of stories that sits in the pit of your stomach like a family member home for the holidays, stirring everything up.