cover image Sudden Fiction International: Sixty Short-Short Stories

Sudden Fiction International: Sixty Short-Short Stories

Thomas Shapard, Robert Shapard. W. W. Norton & Company, $22.95 (342pp) ISBN 978-0-393-02718-1

Shapard and Thomas ( Sudden Fiction: American Short-Short Stories ) gather 60 highly readable, very brief tales from 32 countries, including the U.S. In an astute introduction, Charles Baxter ( First Light ) points out that the shortest stories often have ``to do with a sudden crisis, in which the character does not act so much as react . . . . When a character reacts, the situation is larger and more powerful than that character is.'' In Colette's ``The Other Wife,'' a married couple enters a restaurant, where the man steers his wife away from a table occupied by his ex-wife; in ``One of These Days,'' by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a mayor in a totalitarian regime demands to have an infected tooth pulled, threatening to shoot the dentist if he refuses, and the dentist proceeds without anesthesia, saying, ``Now you'll pay for our twenty dead men.'' Many writers here (e.g., Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Jorge Luis Borges) are widely published; others, such as Poland's Slawomir Mrozek and India's Krishnan Varma, present foreign cultures in distinctive styles that invite further attention. (Oct.)