I like flash of detachment. I like how the genre lets us read off the page. I like homage to William Carlos Williams. Red wheelbarrow is off the page. I respect tone, control of tone. This reminds me of “Night” by Brett Lott, a cold sun of a flash found in this anthology. EE’s flash is the whisper of the space inches above a cold floor. That space exists. The sound of mist on a rooftop. It is a type of quite-ssssssssssss-Chiaroscuro, with a slash of red lipstick, a painting with a hint of violation, a caught breath, a dizzy drop of blood .
Startling juxtapositions here. Worlds of lives orbiting underground, under covers. Reading this I had a feeling of being cut off, apart, like maybe I was talk floated in its journey, fallen words like leaves. Or this ending:
He knows that someday Mattie will take to calling him Handsome Mole. That her skin will never wrinkle. That she will someday board a train with faulty brakes. He knows, but he is helpless to change things. The repair man will someday carry a backpack full of books to the Wife Saver but he will fail to open them. He’ll say, Mattie I’m frightened, but she won’t coo to him. And he will die alone on an ice morning, walking past the subway to church.
I’m not a huge fan of the title, but most every word afterward is a well struck chord. This one falls into the long history of flash as parable, as magical realism, remake of God, and I appreciate the understanding of the genre and form. These are tough to write. Easy to take in the wrong direction, the wrong tone. Hyland keeps it glow with precise phrasing:
See my heart, he said. It really goes.
It really goes, it really goes, this FF. We thank you.
4. Flash Master Bruce Holland Rogers discusses repetition.
A paragraph that says “rose” five times is probably just as clear as one that says “rose,” “flower,” “bloom,” “posy,” and “inflorescence.” In fact, the repetitive version may be clearer than the varied one, particularly if the pursuit of variety leads the writer to scour the thesaurus and find words that aren’t quite right.
He’s right. As a teacher, I note the thesaurus-scourer, too. A student writes, “He ingested his morning sustenance,” and I say “You mean he ate his cereal?” But then again I don’t want to put my students off the thesaurus, though there is a better way to glow/know words: read more books. But I digress…
Holland Rogers argues for repetition. He makes some fascinating points. For example:
If you are going to repeat in your prose, repeat often enough so that the reader can see that the repetition is deliberate and part of your design.
He also lists various types of repetition, varying techniques. It’s a smart essay, thoughtful, and passed my gold standard: It made me want to write.
As a teacher of writing, I think about repetition in a student’s technique. I mean to say students might try a structural flair, or a certain tone shift, a few notes, a hotel of words, or a look-ma-no-hands stylistic move. But they do it once. My feedback is always to say, “No, don’t do it once. Repeat the move.” As Holland Rogers notes above, give the move intent, voice, ownership.
5. Dan Sanders made beer blow out my nose over at Hobart. The rarest thing is to write funny, even rarer the funny flash. But wow. I coughed my spleen into discrete syllables.
We launch in four days. I am assured that my time here has been worthwhile. I feel better than I have in years. Yuri bought a Cadillac. He’s very excited. Every time he sees me he erupts into joyous laughter and says “Cadillac” in his thick Russian accent. He is the very best spiritual advisor a fifty year old man could have before being launched into space.
And this gem:
If you’re going to take people into space, provide them with something to do.
This one is a nod to my students. Recently, I was teaching persona fiction, or fiction working the terrain of celebrities, personalities, stories told with their presence or through their eyes.This is a good assignment for many reasons, but it’s strength is that it forces students to understand the power of characterization. Persona fiction provides a massive advantage for the writer–the characterization is already complete. The reader “knows” the character beforehand.
I gave them spiderman, a version of.
I gave them Paris Hilton and Nicole.
But they really locked onto Mr. Choan’s flash. Maybe because it’s so aware, such a Carver story about Carver about…I mean to say it’s glow.
7. Flash interview with Caia Hagel.
It is a challenge to write, to find the precisely right word after word and rhythm to keep the whole of it viscerally alive. I find that attractive.
8. You have from November 9, 2010 to January 31, 2011 to enter the Vestal Review flash fiction contest.
9. Time is odd and devastating. We’re trapped. Who asked for this? This life. Seriously.
Eric Higgins at wigleaf presents our deathly dilemma very well:
Because It Was Sunday
My father was reading Golf Digest in his chair. I was reading about ancient heroes (made up kinds). My father was my ancient hero. Mother passed through on horseback. Twigs and Spanish moss like grandfather’s beard in her hair tangled. She waved. We waved. Father did it without looking up. This was how we spent Easter Sunday, not because it was Easter but because it was Sunday.
Time must have passed because I was sautéing mushrooms next and draped with too-big gingham pants belted high. What’s for dinner, someone asked. What’s on your plate, I said.
Suddenly a nasty accident saved us.
Mother sold her quarter horses. Dad, his clubs. I turned over my skillets and books. We got to know each other gradually. Videos of us picnicking were made. This was a happy ending. This was a happy ending and over our food we prayed.
I suggest compulsory masterminded attacks of vowels. Go almost taxi, like move your respect into the sky beyond the bridge. I suggest you kiss a pearl’s mother. An owl. I suggest beers the size of synagogues. I suggest lecturing your own brother. Or vikings! Or maybe you jump a fence and wrestle a deer. Or take a nature poem and drown it in yellow gouts of snot. I suggest you listen to the rain. Have sex in the basement of a boycott. Go ahead, take several eggs from the clutch. And suck them. I suggest you go about randomly shouting, “Is anyone here named Terry?!” You’re trapped. I suggest you caress your own earlobe. Remove the wax and sculpt someone who will be by your side when it’s finally your own time. Your own time is coming! Or picnic during an invasion. busyness, I suggest. Or, hell, go bet on dogs and feel horrible for betting on dogs. Cast your mind into turmoil. Gray slime. Flapping shadows. Create your own stamp from a block of hot sauce. Menu my body. HELLO MY NAME IS. Let out a screech. Check that. I hate the word screech. Mystery and imagination, our very few days. Whoops, I just lost another full minute of my lifetime. Drink whiskey, read the Times, etc. I suggest you shut the fuck up. Sorry, sorry, it’s this ghost in my stomach, a thing I once thought impossible. Glassed cabinets I call my eyes. Work one third of my fucking days. Sleep another third. I suggest you fast walk. Quick talk! Stalk out and remember yourself today. Fry in hell! Sorry…I know but one time around dusk I saw a coyote with its mouth full of bird and it was stalking a rabbit snagged on barbed wire, a screaming rabbit, one big spinning eye on me.
11. I also suggest The Party, a two-party gathering at 3 in the morning, a flash by Alan McCormick and a drawing by Johnny Voss.
Elvis Presley Visits His Volatile Temperament
It was snowing the night they say I lost my mind, and I never shot no damn TV. It was too much Budweiser on top of codeine on top of valium on top of methaqualone and an argument with Sonny West about him cheating in racquetball that afternoon. Really it was just about me losing to a man so grossly out of shape, about self-image. I just looked in the mirror and something snapped. I tore the mirror from the wall and jumped on the bed until the bottom fell out and opened my big window and hurled all of this and one hell of a hi-fi set into the frozen swimming pool below (we never did get the cover on that year). Then I tossed a big blue lamp—some kind of glass sculpture thing—followed by a silver serving tray and a chair made to look like a leopard standing on its hind legs (given to me by Zambia’s Tourism Minister, Frederick Mwanawasa). It was all fine until I found my revolver. They’d removed the bullets (wrapped them in duct tape and hidden them in the downstairs freezer I found out later). I ranted and raved—“Where’s my ammo!” They held me down, until I passed out. The next afternoon, after I woke up on my bedroom carpet, I gave them all hell, my voice thick as cough syrup.
“Where’d my life go?” I demanded.
“In the swimming pool,” Sonny said, the rest of them nodding along.
“Oh.” I thought a moment. “Well, go get it.”
13. Jared Yates Sexton over at The Raleigh Review.
This is some gritty, fast-moving knife flash here. In dialogue, internal monologue–check this glass, glitter shard of, technique. Conflict ramped up, no waiting on the wind, no waiting, words glint of beer can off bits of bone, bits of skull. I keep saying to students, “Get the story started!” I show them things. Next time I say it I’m going to show them this Sexton flash.
14. Kim Chinquee is the Queen of Flash Fiction. Well, no shit.
In curt sentences detailing many unsettled lives, Chinquee constructs a mosaic of despair in modern day America.