cover image The Art of Brevity: Crafting the Very Short Story

The Art of Brevity: Crafting the Very Short Story

Grant Faulkner. Univ. of New Mexico, $19.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-0-82636-473-9

These meditative reflections from Faulkner (All the Comfort Sin Can Provide), executive director of National Novel Writing Month, consider the merits of flash fiction. “Our lives are as much about the unspoken as the spoken,” Faulkner contends, waxing poetic on short stories and imparting advice on how to write them. Flash fiction, he posits, works by calling attention to the “spectral blank spaces” around “stray moments,” highlighting the fleeting sensations of everyday experiences, and subverting any pretense to “comprehensiveness and finality.” He offers exercises for composing “tiny stories,” suggesting readers try telling a story in 100 words, capturing a character’s day in seven moments, or spinning a yarn based on emails in one’s spam folder. Enlightening aphorisms from famous authors are peppered throughout, such as poet Robert Southey’s advice, “If you would be pungent, be brief; for it is with words as with sunbeams—the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.” The exercises are creative, and Faulkner’s dissections of short stories offer revealing glimpses into the many possibilities afforded by the format, such as when he holds up Lydia Davis’s “A Double Negative” to demonstrate how she uses the eponymous technique to sow doubt and suspense. This makes a convincing case for keeping it short. (Feb.)