Per Contra Reviews Flash Fiction Forward



When you read an anthology do you start at the beginning and work your way methodically through, or read here and there choosing by title, or do you look for familiar names and read those first?  Taking up Flash Fiction Forward, you’ve made a good choice no matter what your reading style.  It’s no surprise to find that this selection made by James Shapard and Robert Thomas is superb.  They’ve been recognized experts in this field of very short fiction—sudden fiction—since their first anthology, more than twenty years ago.


The short short has had a long history in literature, but Shapard and Thomas have given the form the attention it has needed.  Pioneers in popularizing flash, they have recently produced two anthologies:  this one and another due early next year. In compiling this anthology, in addition to their own wide reading, they surveyed publishers of the form and selected from among the suggestions.  The result brings us some names we’d expect in a flash anthology, some we’re not used to seeing in this form, but recognize, among them: Pamela Painter, Ron Carlson, Rick Moody, Dave Eggers, Steve Almond, Paul Theroux, Amy Hempel, Ann Hood, Donald Hall, Grace Paley, John Updike and John Edgar Wideman.  If you read these first, you will be just as delighted by what you read by the other authors in this excellent collection, among them Mark Budman, Utahna Faith and Barbara Jacksha.  Ann Hood and Barbara Jacksha can be found in Per Contra


In their introduction, the editors write that in addition to length  (750 words), that “a flash should be memorable. …a good flash should move the reader emotionally or intellectually, it should be well-written—and, not least, everyone had his or her idea of what was uplifting, disgusting, hilarious, artful.”  For those who have read flash fiction only online, this anthology will demonstrate that the form, although perfect for online reading, is equally suited to the still well-beloved book. 


Flash Fiction


Flash Fiction Forward:  80 Very Short Stories, New York:  Norton: 2006. 320 pages.


Sudden Fiction, Gibbs Smith, reprint edition 1983. 264 pages.


Sudden Fiction, New York:  Norton, 1989.  342 pages.


Sudden Fiction, New York:  Norton, 1993. 311 pages.


And watch for New Sudden Fiction from America and Beyond due out in 2007.



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Per Contra Winter 2006-2007