Academic journal article Studies in Short Fiction

Micro Fiction: An Anthology of Really Short Stories

Academic journal article Studies in Short Fiction

Micro Fiction: An Anthology of Really Short Stories

Article excerpt

MICRO FICTION: AN ANTHOLOGY OF REALLY SHORT STORIES, edited and introduced by Jerome Stern. New York: W. W. Norton, 1996. 141 pages. $22 cloth; $7.95 paper.

The very short story--a genre that in the last ten years has given us Short Short Stories (1981), Short Shorts (1982), several Sudden Fiction anthologies (1986, 1989, 1996), and Flash Fiction (1992), to name a few--pushes the form to its limits in Micro Fiction, a collection edited by the late Jerome Stern. In 1986, Professor Stern launched Florida State University's "World's Best Short Short Story Contest," requesting entries of no more than 250 words. He called the contest "a hyperbolic query" that asks "What can be done on a single typed page in this oldest of ways of telling? ... What are the possibilities?" This volume offers an answer in the form of 52 stories from contest-winners and well-known writers alike, including Sam Shepard, Fred Chappell, Padgett Powell, and Amy Hempel.

"Micros" are as stylistically diverse as they are brief: Hempel's 43-word "Housewife," the shortest here, displays a subtly absurd wit evocative of David Ives; Roberta Allen's "All This," a sentence-long slow-motion spanking, depicts emotional violence with the clarity of Tim O'Brien; Ron Carlson's "Grief" reads like a fable or a parable; and Elaine Magarrell's "Chickens" recalls the magical realism of Garcia Marquez or Octavio Paz. While these stories could not be grouped in any single "school" of composition, all share an intensity and clarity that reminded me of poetry--indeed, it seems fitting that several of these authors are also published poets. Of course, Poe invoked poetry's "intense or enduring impression" to define the "single effect" of a prose tale; so my story-as-poetry analogy hardly marks a fresh approach in describing this narrative form. …

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