cover image Flash Fiction Forward: 80 Very Short Stories

Flash Fiction Forward: 80 Very Short Stories

. W. W. Norton & Company, $15.95 (237pp) ISBN 978-0-393-32802-8

In their second collection of ""flash fiction"" stories-aka ""short shorts""-Thomas and Shapard have pulled together almost 80 works that are consistently swift and powerful, distilling the intricacies and flourish of short fiction into just a few pages. In ""The Memory Priest of the Creech People,"" Paul Theroux's protagonist preserves the collective memory of the Creech people before he is cannibalized by his constituency. Hannah Bottomy's ""Currents"" replays in reverse the events surrounding the drowning of a young boy. Ron Carlson's ""The Great Open Mouth Anti-Sadness"" witnesses a father laying drunk on his bed after his daughter's wedding, feeling the whirl of the overhead fan and struggling to name his emotions. Jack Handey's darkly comic ""The Voices in My Head,"" Lon Otto's parable of debating sloths in Costa Rica and David Galef's hilarious ""My Date with Neaderthanal Woman"" provide laughs. Profound revelations develop in Leonardo's Alishan's ""The Black City,"" in which a minor shaving injury provides the vehicle for a frightening psychological journey; and in Barbara Jackson's ""Gemoetry Can Fail Us,"" in which a man's struggle to fell a tree leads to surprising insight into his wife's love. Exquisite entries from a number of other notable authors, including John Edgar Wideman, Richard Bausch, A.M. Homes, Dave Eggers, John Updike, Amy Hempel, Tony Earley and Rick Moody will also delight. Ranging in style from crisp, sober realism to outlandish surrealism, these small treasures make a convincing argument for the relevance and vitality of this little-celebrated genre.