This week’s letter, by writer Ali Millar, speaks directly to my flash fiction and short-short story loving heart (is there a difference between those two forms? I think so…)
The room was hot, I was nervous. That day we were examining short stories, each of us given a different one to look at, mine was short, mine was more than short, it read;
Christian, I’m not a
And that was it. What to say, I panicked, about four words and a title, the sheer audacity of it struck me then, and had struck me many times since. The obviousness of it, the simplicity, the I could’ve written that myself coupled with the knowledge that like all great art the simplicity is sheer artifice, the feeling that maybe I could turn similar tricks a delusion.
As you might know, I’ve been working on building a collection of flash fictions around the idea of monstrousness, to be called Monstirs. Now, as it stands, I have 34 stories, and I think a few more to come. Some are as short as 250 words. Others break out from the limits of flash, going up to 1,800 words (at that point, they might be classed as very short stories). And I’ve been asking on Twitter for help gauging how long a collection should be. It seems there is, as with poetry collections, no real limit. I’ll keep writing until I have enough to cull, and enough weight.
It helps to look at the history of works, of course. I once went into a bookshop and asked where they kept the flash fiction collections (thinking they’d be near the short stories) only to be asked “what’s flash fiction?” By the bookseller. I also recently read an essay that described flash as anecdotes, frustratingly thin, or at best, poetry under a new marketing spin. Not at all. I’m making a list here – a kind of wish list, for books of flash fiction, and pieces which step into the river that forms the boundary between genres – novels in flash, tiny essays around a theme. I haven’t read them all, but have heard good things. Perhaps you’ll find this helpful too. Grateful thanks to Erin Fitzgerald for helping with this. And to various folk on Twitter for chiming in.
- Speedboat and Pitch Dark, Renata Adler (NYRB)
- The Crack-Up, F. Scott Fitzgerald (New Directions)
- Mother Ghost, Casey Hannan (Tiny Hardcore Press)
- My Mother Was an Upright Piano, Tania Hershman (Tangent Books)
- From Old Notebooks, Evan Lavender-Smith (Dzanc)
- Understudies, Ravi Mangla (Outpost21)
- Bluets, Maggie Nelson (Wave)
- Of Dublin and Other Fictions, Nuala Ni Chonchuir (Tower Press)
- Dept. of Speculation, Jenny Offill (Knopf)
- Why Did I Ever and One D.O.A. and One on the Way, Mary Robison (Counterpoint)
- I’m Not Saying I’m Just Saying, Matthew Salesses (CCM)
- The Great Unknown, Edit. Angela Meyer (Spineless Wonders)
- A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness, Amy L. Clark, Elizabeth Ellen, Kathy Fish, and Claudia Smith (Rose Metal Press)
Any more flash fiction collections/novels/anthologies that are essential?