In our age of sound-bites, pop-up shops, instant on-line publishing and short attention spans, it is entirely fitting that Calum Kerr has launched a national day to celebrate the art of the short, short-story, National Flash-Fiction Day, taking place on Wednesday, 16th May, 2012.
From my first furry-tongued breath on New Year’s Day, and daily thereafter, announcements and reminders of competition deadlines and opportunities to submit and to read flash-fictions have been fluttering and flapping all over Facebook and Twitter. In the wink of an eye, several on-line and print flash-fiction anthologies have emerged, one of the most impressive being ‘Jawbreakers’, edited by Calum Kerr and Valerie O’Riordan.
This collection of flash-fictions offers small and scrumptious sips from the half-pint sized glass of tiny stories.
For me, the tiniest tales pack the most powerful punches and the ten micro-fictions (100 words and less), included at the end of this gorgeously presented book, stayed with me far beyond the time it took to read them.
Here, Angela Readman in ‘The Worst Head in the World’ and Dan Carpenter in ‘The Black Hole’ begin their stories with absurdities that grow into startling, hyper-reality, in the tradition of the most talented magic realists.
Jenny Adamthwaite in ‘New Shoes’, a tweet-sized story, skilfully allows the reader to fathom what happens to ‘Dad’. A beautiful example of how to show and not tell.
Elsewhere, Martha Williams and Dan Powell draw on the worlds of ante-natal clinics, Health Visitors and rogue children to demonstrate how the most mundane settings have the power to captivate when the writing is as lean and effective as this shortest form demands. Similarly, David Gilbert’s two paragraph story, ‘Cheese’, has the scope of a novel in its tenderly accurate portrait of married, family life.
Modern life is further perfectly captured with ‘Ed!’ by Rupan Malakin offering an hilarious and stunningly observed take on door-opening politics and Jason Bagshaw‘s fabulous ‘Sad Lover’ sentiently portrays a failed relationship.
Elsewhere, ‘Natural’ by Sarah-Clare Conlon vividly inhabits the world of organic greengrocers and Guardian readers and Jonathon Pinnock‘s ‘Camembert’ gives us an inside view of a relationship with a breath-takingly other-worldly edge.
There are other small wonders to discover in this collection of 52 fictions, some from rather famous writers and some from the not quite as well-known. Inevitably, not all these of these gems sparkle with equal brilliance but, to this reader at least, ‘Jawbreakers’ is proof that a little bit of what you fancy does you good. Highly recommended for your bookshelf.