Flash fiction is a relatively new genre, shorter than a short story. The rule of thumb: you shouldn’t have to turn the page more than once. Concise and controlled, this form of fiction requires a particular discipline, but a number of writers have happily taken up the gauntlet - over eighty in this collection alone, including Paul Theroux, Jim Crace, Ann Hood, Rick Moody, Richard Bausch, Dave Eggers and John A McCaffrey.
In a society bedeviled by technology and the demands of busy lives, flash fiction is a fascinating trend, tight, clear and sophisticated, challenging the parameters of the traditional short story, answering the editor’s question: “How short can a story be and truly be a story?”
Much like poetry, the subjects of these short, short fictions are not trivial, but distilled. Most importantly, they must be memorable. Writer Richard Bausch (“1951”), 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.”
To be sure, in his selection Bausch accomplishes much in a few pages, the power of loss and responsibility weighing upon the narrow shoulders of one small girl. 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. A Svengali-like man assumes power over his unsuspecting victim, the young woman who has captured his imagination and his desire. 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 practical terms, this tidy volume is the perfect companion to a busy life, easily tucked into a briefcase or purse, to be enjoyed between appointments, the wasted minutes of waiting filled instead with the random insights of the collection.
Of excellent variety and quality to meet every taste, the selections are brilliantly chosen by editors James Thomas and Robert Shapard. Their first edition, well-received and much-enjoyed by the public, was ten years in the making. Stark, dramatic and intense in its brevity, flash fiction appeals in its length and breadth of topic, each story a small jolt, another reality, if only for a few minutes of escape.