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New Sudden Fiction: Short-Short Stories from America and Beyond

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Responding to America’s love affair with the short-short, editors Robert Shapard and James Thomas searched thousands of books and magazines to select these sixty stories—each under 2,000 words, each with its own element of surprise, whether traditional, experimental, humorous, moving, or magical. In the process they discovered both new talents and a wealth of celebrated wr Responding to America’s love affair with the short-short, editors Robert Shapard and James Thomas searched thousands of books and magazines to select these sixty stories—each under 2,000 words, each with its own element of surprise, whether traditional, experimental, humorous, moving, or magical. In the process they discovered both new talents and a wealth of celebrated writers, such as Jorge Luis Arzola, Aimee Bender, Teolinda Gersão, Romulus Linney, Yann Martel, Sam Shepard, and Tobias Wolff. Zdravka Evitmova conjures blood drops that cure any disease. Ian Frazier writes public relations for crows. Juan José Milás leads an amnesiac husband to an affair in the candlelit darkness of a cathedral with his wife. These tales told quickly offer pleasures long past their telling.


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Responding to America’s love affair with the short-short, editors Robert Shapard and James Thomas searched thousands of books and magazines to select these sixty stories—each under 2,000 words, each with its own element of surprise, whether traditional, experimental, humorous, moving, or magical. In the process they discovered both new talents and a wealth of celebrated wr Responding to America’s love affair with the short-short, editors Robert Shapard and James Thomas searched thousands of books and magazines to select these sixty stories—each under 2,000 words, each with its own element of surprise, whether traditional, experimental, humorous, moving, or magical. In the process they discovered both new talents and a wealth of celebrated writers, such as Jorge Luis Arzola, Aimee Bender, Teolinda Gersão, Romulus Linney, Yann Martel, Sam Shepard, and Tobias Wolff. Zdravka Evitmova conjures blood drops that cure any disease. Ian Frazier writes public relations for crows. Juan José Milás leads an amnesiac husband to an affair in the candlelit darkness of a cathedral with his wife. These tales told quickly offer pleasures long past their telling.

30 review for New Sudden Fiction: Short-Short Stories from America and Beyond

  1. 5 out of 5

    Philip

    Sudden Fiction = Short-Short Stories. With authors like David Foster Wallace, Chuck Palahniuk, Joyce Carol Oates, Elizabeth Berg, and Yann Martel how can you go wrong? Well, you really can't.* Most all of these stories were pretty fantastic. I keep going back to several, most notably Robin Hemley's "Reply All," which is told in the email format... I know I've hit "reply all" with disastrous results before... This collection is pretty much all gold. And if you come across a story you don't like, Sudden Fiction = Short-Short Stories. With authors like David Foster Wallace, Chuck Palahniuk, Joyce Carol Oates, Elizabeth Berg, and Yann Martel how can you go wrong? Well, you really can't.* Most all of these stories were pretty fantastic. I keep going back to several, most notably Robin Hemley's "Reply All," which is told in the email format... I know I've hit "reply all" with disastrous results before... This collection is pretty much all gold. And if you come across a story you don't like, it's guaranteed to be under 2000 words. Score. *Here's how you can go wrong: getting this book for a class of 7th graders. It's catalogued under "Y" in our library. I'm guessing Y=young adult between 18-25 instead of 13-18... As I'm sure you've gathered from the list of authors at the top, many of these have adult themes. Great stories, fun to read, but not what I was looking for to push on my class. (And to think I got a little bent out of shape over Neil Gaiman's M is for Magic.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    The original Sudden Fiction anthology was something of a literary groundbreaker as well as the start of a franchise--Robert Shapard and James Thomas could be credited with giving sudden (aka flash, aka micro, aka short short) fiction a formal stage so that the genre could (and did) become acceptable in all kinds of venues where it had not been considered legitimate before. Obviously, Raymond Carver's seminal collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (the one edited by Gordon Lish, wh The original Sudden Fiction anthology was something of a literary groundbreaker as well as the start of a franchise--Robert Shapard and James Thomas could be credited with giving sudden (aka flash, aka micro, aka short short) fiction a formal stage so that the genre could (and did) become acceptable in all kinds of venues where it had not been considered legitimate before. Obviously, Raymond Carver's seminal collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (the one edited by Gordon Lish, who of course wanted to take full credit for the form in the first Sudden Fiction anthology) may have been among the first collections to qualify the boundaries of short fiction into the realm of a page or two, but Shapard & Thomas' first Sudden Fiction anthology was possibly the first popular proof that this short form was just as competent as the longer short story form and could be tackled by writers just as competent as Carver. From there, Shapard & Thomas sparked the Sudden Fiction anthology series and even did spots of the Flash Fiction anthology series, together or separately. This volume is the most recent installment, and it follows the method of the others--stories that tend to fall in the range of 2,000 words or lower, and familiar names (Tobias Wolff, Sam Shephard, Joyce Carol Oates, etc.) standing next to names that are not as familiar, due either to neglect in the whorls of the literary administration or to the general low quality of their work. Of course, any anthology is going to have its hits and misses, and this one is no exception. Aimee Bender is a nice turn in the road, since all the stories before hers seem to have a definite realist tendency, and hers is the first to explore the realm of the surreal, and does so quite powerfully. Ha Jin's piece about humor and those political machines that have none is about as powerful as any Mo Yan novel, and Chuck Palahniuk is as verbose as ever, though the shorter form lets his piece resonate nicely without being swept away by its language. Sherrie Flick's "How I Left Ned" is wonderfully creepy and gothic, a story that could only be sustained in an abbreviated form, and Geoffrey Forsyth's "Mud" is an incredible musing on grief. Stacey Richter's "The Minimalist" is a spin through the world of an artistic and personal meltdown. These works show the power of the sudden fiction format--the emotions are intense, bombastic and ride prominently on the sleeve. They aren't poetic, and so don't seem appropriate to call prose poems, but instead have that kind of grounded punch that good fiction has, with events that might not be familiar but are certainly sympathetic. Some of the misses, though, really dragged down this collection, as they showed the weaknesses this genre can exude. Toure's "I Shot the Sherriff" is a pretty redundant piece that takes a lot of obvious moves and shows a pretty weak writing hand (despite the author's arrogant bio at the back of the book). Robert Olen Butler's "Seven Pieces of Severance" is just a poor smattering of pieces from his collection Severance--cryptic monologues from decapitated heads. Elizabeth Berg's "The Party" is a rather typical musing on the differences between men and women--rather one-sided and cliché by the end. These are the pieces that serve as reminders that the term Sudden Fiction can sometimes be used to try to legitimize failed short stories--many of these pieces provide little of the kind of interest that sustains good short fiction, no matter how long: a vivid glimpse into genuine human character. The failings of this collection are a little less forgivable than they would be in previous anthologies only because Shapard & Thomas have helped define and justify this genre, so it would seem that their positions would entail and effort to further define the genre's boundaries and possibilities. While there are quite a few pieces here that show a maturation of the sudden fiction genre, it is clear that the term is also being used to try to give credence to short-minded, poorly imaginative work. Perhaps that is just the nature of the literary game, but I would have rather finished this collection with a twitter of excitement and possibility rather than a pang of some missed opportunity.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jim Elkins

    A book of 'short-short stories,' which the editor defines as stories under 2,000 words. The central question here is whether or not this is a genre. Some of the stories seem artificially compressed, as if their authors had to telegraph their thoughts to fit the word limit. Others, among the most successful, read like excerpts from longer stories or fragments of novels. (Joyce Carol Oates's is an example.) Quite a few use surrealist juxtaposition as a principal reductive strategy. Others are atte A book of 'short-short stories,' which the editor defines as stories under 2,000 words. The central question here is whether or not this is a genre. Some of the stories seem artificially compressed, as if their authors had to telegraph their thoughts to fit the word limit. Others, among the most successful, read like excerpts from longer stories or fragments of novels. (Joyce Carol Oates's is an example.) Quite a few use surrealist juxtaposition as a principal reductive strategy. Others are attempts at parables or allegories, but they tend to be awkward, ill-conceived, or randomly associative, or campy. Very few seem to be fully realized and optimal at their present length. So the collection is strained, and even aside from questions of quality, the 'short-short story' does not work as a new kind of fiction. Unless fourth-generation North American surrealism or belated revivals of absurdism are sufficient organizational strategies, and unless aphorisms, epigrams, and prose poems are allowed into the category of 'short-short stores,' then almost none of these work as independent forms.[return][return]And then there's the question of quality. Very few are good. Among the best: contributions by Peter Orner, Sam Shepard, Oates, Frederick Adolf Paola, Larissa Amir, Elizabeth Berg, Hon McNally, David Foster Wallace, and Donald Frame. Most of the rest are artificially compressed, arcane, pointlessly or aimlessly whimsical, raw and indigestible, or just trite.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dylan

    "Don't smile. Just because I'm smiling, don't assume I couldn't kill you right now." This was a book of a ton of short short stories. It is amazing that a complete story can be told in such a small number of words. We really do need less than we think to get our point across. My favorite stories from the collection are: A History of Everything, Including You Loving the Dead Tomorrow's Bird Blood Pompeii In Reference to Your Recent Communications Consumed Why Men Quit: An Intellectual Inquiry Swimming for "Don't smile. Just because I'm smiling, don't assume I couldn't kill you right now." This was a book of a ton of short short stories. It is amazing that a complete story can be told in such a small number of words. We really do need less than we think to get our point across. My favorite stories from the collection are: A History of Everything, Including You Loving the Dead Tomorrow's Bird Blood Pompeii In Reference to Your Recent Communications Consumed Why Men Quit: An Intellectual Inquiry Swimming for Shore Feelers The Gold Lunch

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alex Johnson

    Tough to rate this book. As a collection of 60-ish super short stories, it was very hit or miss. But damn, some of them really hit. A great book to kill time since each story is less then 2,000 words. A great mix of comedy, experimental, and dramatic. Worth checking out, especially the first two stories I would say.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Erikaaaa

    If you pick up this collection of very-very short-shorts and you read the first story while you're still in the store, you might buy it. Well, that's because it's the best story in the book. I fell right into that trap. This volume boasts some big names--Chuck Palahniuk, David Foster Wallace, Joyce Carol Oates, Tobias Wolff, Aimee Bender--and their stories were okay--well, actually theirs were all pretty good but I'd read some of them before--but for the most part i was just... Where are they get If you pick up this collection of very-very short-shorts and you read the first story while you're still in the store, you might buy it. Well, that's because it's the best story in the book. I fell right into that trap. This volume boasts some big names--Chuck Palahniuk, David Foster Wallace, Joyce Carol Oates, Tobias Wolff, Aimee Bender--and their stories were okay--well, actually theirs were all pretty good but I'd read some of them before--but for the most part i was just... Where are they getting these stories from?! There is a story, seriously, about a girl who is so obsessed with Chris Cornell that she falls for a homeless man who resembles him, makes him shower, and then lives out her fantasies with him. There is a story where having lunch with your ex is an Olympic sport (it was KIND of clever). There is a story called "Stolen Chocolates" (I'm sorry but that's just too much), and one called "Reply All." These things are not unforgivable but the stories don't make up for them. The two stories in the anthology I actually liked were the ones translated from Spanish. Suck it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Chris - Quarter Press Editor

    I've enjoyed flash fiction for a long while now, but it has been more than awhile since I've visited the form. This was an excellent collection to dive back in with, as most every story hit me in some way. The preface discusses how this length and form just seems to "work," as many shorter stories can feel too incomplete or ambiguous, and longer works can start to get bogged down. However, this length of story packs a hell of a punch, and many of these stories are perfect examples of that punch. Wh I've enjoyed flash fiction for a long while now, but it has been more than awhile since I've visited the form. This was an excellent collection to dive back in with, as most every story hit me in some way. The preface discusses how this length and form just seems to "work," as many shorter stories can feel too incomplete or ambiguous, and longer works can start to get bogged down. However, this length of story packs a hell of a punch, and many of these stories are perfect examples of that punch. What I liked best, though, is the range of when these were written. I had originally assumed that all were recent stories. However, upon checking out the contributor's notes, I saw how many had copyright dates decades ago. I never would have guessed. These writer's have all done what we should strive to: they touch on something that resonates throughout the years and contexts. That, to me, makes this more than worth the read, and--even more--makes this collection one to study, if you want to learn the short form.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Denis

    I'm changing my rating to 5 stars, from 4. My interest in the Sudden Fiction series is mostly to learn how to write short-shorts and I look to the Sudden Fiction series for inspiration, and to see how it's done. And they're also great bedside reading as you can read many full morsels before drifting off. I wasn't excited with the original, Sudden Fiction, American Short-Short Stories, published in 1986. But I went back through this collection to tag those that evoked something in me, those worth I'm changing my rating to 5 stars, from 4. My interest in the Sudden Fiction series is mostly to learn how to write short-shorts and I look to the Sudden Fiction series for inspiration, and to see how it's done. And they're also great bedside reading as you can read many full morsels before drifting off. I wasn't excited with the original, Sudden Fiction, American Short-Short Stories, published in 1986. But I went back through this collection to tag those that evoked something in me, those worth rereading, and the book ended up with many, many sticky notes. So 5 it must be!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alissa Hattman

    This survey of stories three pages or less links a range of writing from humorous to magical, from experimental to traditional, notable authors being Tobias Wolff, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Olen Butler, Ha Jin, David Foster Wallace and Sam Shepard. Some of these stories succeeded in capturing the essence of a moment to reveal a larger significance, while others just felt like an outline or sketch of something that could be larger and more meaningful.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

    I read this and Children Standing Before a Statue of Hercules at the same time. I'd rate this one at a slightly lower awesomeness-per-page average, but still had many great stories that introduced me to new authors. Also, the short-short is the perfect length for the typical window I have for pleasure reading each day, in the morning between breakfast and shower, if you know what I'm talking about.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Shane

    The stories in this book are amazing. They're short, precise, funny, serious, curious, and above all fun. They are direct, starting you off in the action so there's no need for some long intro, and then after you read one story you think, "There's no way this next story will be as good as the last one," but guess what? It is!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sterling

    Some real winners. I guess breaking up is the genesis to the short story.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lotte

    Not a bad collection but the stories are a bit long to qualify as sudden fiction. As usual, there is a mix of more powerful stories with less memorable ones.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Liosliath

    Probably one of the best collections of short stories I've ever read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Katharine Grubb

    Some real funny stuff in this one- and some equally as disturbing...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Hern

    To tell a good story in so few pages is a true gift. I thoroughly enjoyed most of the stories in this volume. Sudden fiction is a true blue genre, put your seatbelt on. 4.25 Stars.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Rubenstein

    Short fiction is awesome and as a short person, I claim this genre for my people.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Timons Esaias

    I've been writing a bit of flash fiction lately, and the Sudden Fiction series is touted as the gold standard of short-short fiction. (Note, however, that their definition of "sudden" is longer than the normal limit of "flash" fiction.) I bought this entry in the series, because it's the only one the bookstore had on its shelves when I went looking. Bottom line: I'll be rounding up the other entries in the series, starting from the beginning. This is that good. It contains everything from David Fo I've been writing a bit of flash fiction lately, and the Sudden Fiction series is touted as the gold standard of short-short fiction. (Note, however, that their definition of "sudden" is longer than the normal limit of "flash" fiction.) I bought this entry in the series, because it's the only one the bookstore had on its shelves when I went looking. Bottom line: I'll be rounding up the other entries in the series, starting from the beginning. This is that good. It contains everything from David Foster Wallace's DON'T EVER READ THIS, IT'S TOO TRAUMATIC piece, which I wish I could unsee, to "Reply All" by Robin Hemley, which brings that bad habit to its just and terrible end. There's an audio tour of an ex's apartment, an annotated breakup message ("In Reference to Your Recent Communications"), and several stories that show both sides of a decision tree. I loved Jenny Hollowell's "A History of Everything, Including You" which uses a technique I wish I'd thought of, because now it's been closed to all of us. Other fine studies are Teolinda Gersão's "The Red Fox Fur Coat", Sam Shepard's "Berlin Wall Piece" and Aimee Bender's "The Rememberer". "Swimming for Shore" (Chrissy Kolaya) and "Before the Train, and After" (Katherine Nolte) take on fateful moments and regret. I'll praise the pieces by Dean Paschal, Steve Amick, Benjamin Alire Sáenz and Ron Carlson as well; though all the pieces (BUT SKIP THE DFW!!!!) are clever, solid, and inspiring. And did I find myself coming up with new ideas?? Yes, indeed. Recommended.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Matt Sautman

    Much like Flash Fiction Forward, there are many brilliant entries within this anthology, but there are also those whose mediocre quality prevent me from giving this a perfect score. Amongst my favorites in this is "The History of the Entire Universe Including You," but there plenty of other entries that stand out for their ability to comment upon perception and how it's relationship to reality is not always as it appears at first glance. My other complaint, which is appropriate for Flash Fiction Much like Flash Fiction Forward, there are many brilliant entries within this anthology, but there are also those whose mediocre quality prevent me from giving this a perfect score. Amongst my favorites in this is "The History of the Entire Universe Including You," but there plenty of other entries that stand out for their ability to comment upon perception and how it's relationship to reality is not always as it appears at first glance. My other complaint, which is appropriate for Flash Fiction Forward as well, is that it could stand to be more multicultural. There are international entries within this, but issues of intersectional identity seem underrepresented when these two anthologies by the same editors are read in near succession. This doesn't necessarily take away from the volumes, but it is a critique that might otherwise go unnoticed.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    Some of these stories were fabulous. “Incarnations of Burned Children”, “Powder”, “Water Names”, and “My Kid’s Dog” were my favorites and each of them was different. Others of the stories left me thinking “What? I just spent my time reading that and it was pointless or to obscure or the only thing going for it is the shock value.” It was an interesting book and some of the stories I will pick up and read again and others will whisper in my ear. Still, the majority of these stories did not work f Some of these stories were fabulous. “Incarnations of Burned Children”, “Powder”, “Water Names”, and “My Kid’s Dog” were my favorites and each of them was different. Others of the stories left me thinking “What? I just spent my time reading that and it was pointless or to obscure or the only thing going for it is the shock value.” It was an interesting book and some of the stories I will pick up and read again and others will whisper in my ear. Still, the majority of these stories did not work for me.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Caroline Harbour

    This is an entertaining and fun collection. Some of the stories are excellent, some are just all right. A History of Everything, Including You, The Raft, Tomorrow’s Bird, Blood, We Ate the Children Last, My Lawrence, In Reference to Your Recent Communications, Consumed, Mud, Feelers, The Party, My Kid’s Dog, Reply All, Escort, and Doughnut Shops and Doormen were all very good.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Heather Godwin

    I bought this book in college for a lit class, which only required us to read one of these short stories, and never got around to reading the rest. That one short story for the class was my favorite by the end of this collection, but there were a few other jems.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Josiecellone

    Because each of these stories are so condensed, I found myself having to sit with each one after reading. Haunting and exposing in what’s left out. Incredible voice and creativity told through unique storytelling formats. Immensely memorable, a fantastic collection.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cate

    I have this dining companion who delights in feeding me "the perfect bite". These stories are perfect bites. Exciting writing. Inspiring models for an aspiring author. Yum.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michael Brantley

    I really enjoyed this book - nice, short pieces that get right to it. Great writing. I read the original, too.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Hillary

    Definitely some gems in here, but I liked the Sudden Latino Fiction collection better.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    This book is just as it is described. There is a great variety of stories and topics.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Matt Tooley

    I didn’t read all the stories — just the ones I could consider teaching in World Lit...plus a few others. Helpful book!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jenna Mitchell

    This collection of short stories is really fun to read. Every story within can be finished in between 5 and 15 minutes, making it easy to binge-read many of them in a sitting. I gave it four stars instead of five only because there are quite a few stories I feel "meh" about. They're OK, but I wonder how they made it into this collection, aside from just fitting the length requirement (the stories are all 4-6 pages long). I feel like they were trying to put a lot of diversity into the book, which This collection of short stories is really fun to read. Every story within can be finished in between 5 and 15 minutes, making it easy to binge-read many of them in a sitting. I gave it four stars instead of five only because there are quite a few stories I feel "meh" about. They're OK, but I wonder how they made it into this collection, aside from just fitting the length requirement (the stories are all 4-6 pages long). I feel like they were trying to put a lot of diversity into the book, which is awesome, but in covering as broad of a range of writing types as they do, some of the stories fall really flat for me, and some of them I walked into not knowing the horrific story trap I was about to fall into. Reading a story about love and then a horrendous, haunting tale of a baby dying right on top of one another is a bit more than I expected when I picked up this book. Instead of an anthology based on story length, I prefer anthologies based on something else: award-winning stories, or even genre-based.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Stan Murai

    This anthology collects short-short stories, sixty altogether, all less than 2000 words, typically five pages in length. I don't know if they necessarily represent a new literary genre or just a reflection of what might be the case of many readers, a short attention span that needs to contain an entire work of fiction within the time limitations of our quickly distracted lives. Anyway, most readers will find something of interest; the quality of the works vary, but that may also represent individual t This anthology collects short-short stories, sixty altogether, all less than 2000 words, typically five pages in length. I don't know if they necessarily represent a new literary genre or just a reflection of what might be the case of many readers, a short attention span that needs to contain an entire work of fiction within the time limitations of our quickly distracted lives. Anyway, most readers will find something of interest; the quality of the works vary, but that may also represent individual tastes as well as different styles. This is an eclectic collection of stories, some bizarre, others familial, maybe philosophical, a few depressing, or nostalgic, unexpected, or even creepy. But even so, they are all samples of serious writing that, engaging and fun to read.

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