Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Flash Fiction Fridays

Books have always been a best friend to me. In dark days and bright. I could even tell you that stories have saved my life more than once, and although you’d likely think me melodramatic, we’d both be right.
No one has been able to articulate my feelings about this subject quite like Anne Lamott does in her landmark book, “Bird By Bird” saying: “My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I’m grateful for it the way I’m grateful for the ocean.”
For me, great stories thump your heart like someone sneaking up on you from behind. Or they twist your heart or prod it. You put the pages down and half expect the parchment to ignite.
The best authors motivate me to write. I’ll have to stop reading—sometimes in mid-sentence—grab a pen and jot down an idea or image.
Great writing pulls up a sofa inside your skull and parks itself there, like magazines on a coffee table, always available to be picked up and re-visited.
That’s what we have in the volume, “Flash Fiction Fridays,” featuring thirty-one of today’s strongest literary voices. Each piece (including one of mine) in the collection has been read by the book’s editor, Robert Vaughan, live on WUWM’s radio program, “Lake Effect.” How Robert cajoled such talent is a mystery we need not solve, but rather just delight in.
What we have in “FFF” is a chest full of weaponry—some of it shiny and slick and modern, others more medieval and therefore wickedly destruction.
We encounter the damaged characters that make up our own inner selves—estranged offspring, abandoned lovers, parents bearing life-threatening disease, alcoholics, voyeurs—a cacophony of characters, a circus of lives tested by the current of living.
Here is a smorgasbord of riches:
--Sara Lippmann uses a blowtorch: “I picture his hardened half-moons floating on the toilet bowl’s surface like pin bones of small helpless fish, sucked in the flush, replaced by the hum of his razor.”
--Julie Innis takes a boulder and smashes your aorta: “Later she will try to explain her sadness at it all—that nothing remained—why, even snakes give back the bones.”
--Meg Tuite, like Cormac McCarthy, makes up her own words: “So I stood alone, rerunning the minutes I had dumb-lusted you, as the widening hold you left behind in your wake cracked me in half of what had barely been a half.”
--David Tomaloff lobs grenades: “Leslie Ann liked knives. So much so that she ate a whole one by herself while engaging in phone sex with the neighbor, Roy.”
Bl Pawelek keeps you on your toes with smart quirks like: “My son has 89,812 hairs on his angel head. This is the lowest count this month.”
Sam Rasnake bends fable: “There were no pigs’ huts of straw or stick or stone. No chimney or door. Nothing worth his time to enter, nothing to tear down for another meal…”
--Susan Tepper throws darts: “A man without instincts is lost around tools.”
-- J.P. Reese finds a hand mirror and holds it to timely atrocity when she writes: “One day, Muslim soldiers from the north came to my village and began shooting.”
--Susan Gibb paints Polaroids: “The spring thaws have made pie crust of pavement, throwing up stones that might’ve taken centuries to work their way up to the surface from the hellfire of earth’s core.”
--And Vaughan himself, master of both humor and dark, has several zingers, but none as razor-sharp as this opening: “Today my mother broke every dish in the house. The Lladro Three Wisemen were the first to go.”
“Flash Fiction Fridays” is filled with some of the most vivid and memorable flash ever assembled. Treat yourself. It’ll take you places you’ve never been.
Available at

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