Short: An International Anthology of Five Centuries of Short-Short Stories, Prose Poems, Brief Essays, and Other Short Prose Forms

Edited by Alan Ziegler. Persea (Norton, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (318p) ISBN 978-0-89255-432-4

Ziegler, a professor of writing at Columbia University, collects hundreds of short pieces, all under 1,250 words, in this handy anthology of Western writing. Ziegler's introduction draws attention to a genre-bending phenomenon at play in short form literature, but he actively resists defining its characteristics. Rather, his primary interest is showcasing short form in its many variants for readers to explore. Organized chronologically by author's birth, the selection spans over five centuries. Among the entries, Raymond Queneau offers a choose-your-own-adventure story, while Phillip Lopate's essay recounts an encounter with a kind stranger. Some entries, such as Lydia Davis and Jules Renard, are only a few sentences long. Others riff on mundane forms such as Robert Walser piece that reads like a cover letter. When it comes to author selection, the collection proves much less diverse and at times uneven. The first half offers little variety in terms of gender and race, whereas the second half draws primarily from within the United States. The book will appeal primarily to writing students intrigued by form and eager to learn by example. (Mar.)