What a wonderful week of talking to people about flash fiction. While I percolate various–varied–expressive feedback in praise, love, ambivalence, or contempt for the form, I thought it would be nice to offer up a beautiful Russell Banks quote. Of short-short fiction, Banks once said:
It’s its own self, and it’s intrinsically different from the short story and more like the sonnet or ghazal—two quick moves in opposite directions, dialectical moves, perhaps, and then a leap to a radical resolution that leaves the reader anxious in a particularly satisfying way. The source, the need, for the form seems to me to be the same need that created Norse kennings, Zen koans, Sufi tales, where language and metaphysics grapple for holds like Greek wrestlers, and not the need that created the novel or the short story, even, where language and the social sciences sleep peacefully inside one another like bourgeois spoons.
I write both short stories and ultra shorts. These are their own selves, two different forms requiring two different muscles in the mind to make, two different mouths in the heart to take.
I have been asked, “Don’t you think the proliferation of flash fiction has something to do with media and short attention spans?”
Basho–father of brevity–said, “Seek not to follow in the old footsteps; seek what was sought.”
It’s not the length of the arrow, but its precision in showing the way, right? (please don’t try to apply Freud to that–it might work on some level, but it’s just not relevant)
I don’t write or read flash fiction or nonfiction because I’m in a hurry or because I’m feeling restless. I read flash because sometimes I like a good, swift punch to the meta-physique. I write it because sometimes I feel like making a fist.
Who are your favorite writers of short-shorts? High on my list would be Lydia Davis, whose works may only be a few words or sentences, and Donald Barthelme, whose shortest pieces tend to be around 1500 words. Check them out and let me know what you think.