by Pauline Masurel
you love or hate very tiny stories, you can't argue with the premise of
this title. This is a slim volume with a fresh blue and white cover.
Inside is a magazine-style layout with interjecting illustrations and
aphorisms. The format invites you to pop it in a bag for spare moments,
or keep by a bedside for occasional reading.
fifty-three short-short stories (or flash fictions) by forty-four
writers, including the editors. The “contemporary American”
contributors of the title appear to mostly be resident in the United
States although several were born or live outside of the US. Each story
is no longer than 500 words, no more than one or two pages. However, as
this book would have it, “words must be weighed and not
characteristic of the best of these tiny tales is the way they
juxtapose two elements and bring meaning from that proximity. For
example, Mark Budman's story Dark
Side of the Moon focuses on the premise that “violence
determines conciseness” and sets an incident from childhood down
against the modus operandi of a manager in later life. Chauna Craig's The Man With the Shovel
“dreamed once of the trapeze” in contrast to his current occupation of
lifting dead animals from the street surface.
number of these stories examine the themes of violence and death in
many different settings, including a thought-provoking triptych by
Bruce Holland Rogers about soldiers' experience of war. But there are
also liaisons, ghosts and everyday life. After a while the stories
begin to speak to each other, their muses rubbing together to spark new
Most of the
stories are essentially realist, but some of the stand-out tales lift
off from a “what if”. Examples are Deb Olin Unferth's story of a woman
who becomes machine and Aimee
Bender's child who eats elephants. Other
fantastic stories about appetite include the man with a mouth on top of
his head and a woman who develops facial anorexia and starts starving
her appearance of attention. All
It Loves by Avital Gad-Cykman blurs the boundaries between
fantasy and metaphor with her descriptions of the sun on the
Few of these
stories are experimental in form, even if they take liberties with the
dramatic story arc. An exception is Bruce Taylor's Exercise which
slices a story down from 257 words to 128 to 63, all within plain sight
of the reader (although I fretted about why he didn't use 256, 128 and
64 words instead.) It's a revelation of the short-short surgeon's art
to see three versions alive and functioning together.
of beautiful lyrical writing, including Sonya Taaffe's Skins on Sule Skerry.
When first they
met, he stole her skin: cheaper than a wedding ring and twice as clear.
All the soft storm greys, marbled silver and watered white
For all of
their brevity, there's little hurriedness in these stories. They take
the time to say what they need to, and to say it well.
wrote four tiny book reviews for Amateur Gardening Magazine in
a single afternoon. She has always wanted to write a story so short
that it cannot be read with the naked eye, but if she ever succeeds
you’ll only have her word for it.
Publisher: Ooligan Press
First anthology?: Yes
Mark Budman, Tom Hazuka
Editor bios: Mark
Budman and Tom Hazuka are both short-short writers themselves and their
stories are featured in this volume. Mark is co-editor of the flash
fiction magazine, Vestal Review, and Tom is a Pushcart Prize nominee
who has edited several other short fiction anthologies.
Award in the Publishers Association of the West Book Design Awards
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you liked this book you might also like....
Margaret Atwood "Good Bones"
& "The Tent"
Jim Crace "The Devil's Larder"
Stacy Taylor (ed) "Heavy
other reviewers thought: