Sudden Flash Youth – 65 Short-Short Stories, edited by Christine Perkins-Hazuka, Tom Hazuka and Mark Budman

I’m starting to like short stories more and more. They are very refreshing, especially after a big book. However, I have never read a collection like this one. The stories are so short that I found myself wondering how the writers managed to express an idea in so very few words. And because the stories are so short, some of them only half a page or even less, the connection with the reader is made quickly, with detailed paragraphs which drew me in from the very first words.

In Heartland, by Daphne Beal, there’s a striking paragraph with an amazing contrast:

“In New Orleans, the air has body it’s so thick. It’s only March, but as we ride from the airport past houses that look like someone’s taken a baseball bat to them, trees burst with white and pink blossoms, unabashed, and strange beauty is everywhere.”

Little Brother, by Bruce Holland Rogers, is a story about a boy getting a little brother as a Christmas present. But as innocent as that may sound, it really wasn’t, and as the story progressed I had the feeling that something was wrong. Not until the last sentence did I get to find out what it was and I have to admit, that was unexpected and unsettling. This was my favorite story.

Currents, by Hannah Bottomy Voskuil, is an unusual story in the way it’s told – like playing a video of a wave in reverse – I read it once and then again, backwards. I wonder if the author wrote it using the normal sequence of events and then just rewrote it starting with the end.

Accident, by Dave Eggers, is, most of all, an emotional encounter. The collision of two cars makes the driver of one of them aware of something missing in his life: a connection with people.

Bullhead, by Leigh Allison Wilson, is about a woman remembering a long lost love. She not only remembers it but clings to the memory with the desperation of one who lives in a fantasy world. I loved the last paragraph:

“Every story is true and a lie. The true part of this one is: Love and the memory of love can’t be drowned. The lie part is that this is a good thing.”

After He Left, by Matt Hlinak, one of the shortest stories in the book, is about half a page long. The strangest thing about it is that on my way home I saw a dead sparrow – just like the girl in the story – and when I did, my thoughts flew back to the words on that half page and I saw it too, the world moving fast, impatient and oblivious to life and its endings.

Forgotten, by Anne Mazer, captures the essence of childhood play so beautifully:

“All day they followed paths, forded streams, and climbed trees. They discovered countries, crossed oceans and desserts, explored jungles teeming with life. They were animal and human, villain and hero, rich and poor, fearless and timid. They were born and died hundreds of times. New races of people spilled from their fingers. They tunneled under mountains, built and destroyed worlds, flew to the moon and sun, and reached the beginnings and ends of time.”

There are many more wonderful stories in the book but I’m not going to run through all. Some of them, like the ones mentioned above, struck a chord with me; others I enjoyed for their flow, or characters or the rhythm of the words.
Every story in the book centers on childhood or adolescence: fragments of life seen through a youngster’s eyes, a first love, the lure of the virtual world, teen pregnancy, the loss of a parent, a birthday celebration. Stories tied with emotion, loss, love and regret, stories about a time we all went through. Stories that made me remember my own childhood, summer days spent lying under a tree on a blanket with a book in my hands, golden plums I ate half-peeled pretending they were ice-cream, the smell of grass and of a big black dog with a spatter of white on its chest who found its untimely death under the wheels of a car.
A very good book that I will certainly read again. I already went back to reread some of the stories and they were just as good as the first time.

*Read in January 2012

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10 Responses to Sudden Flash Youth – 65 Short-Short Stories, edited by Christine Perkins-Hazuka, Tom Hazuka and Mark Budman

  1. M-----l says:

    That sounds like a book I’d enjoy. I must admit I’m curious about how “Little Brother” ends. The Dave Eggers one also sounds good. I’ve read some of his very short fiction and I tend to enjoy it more than his longer stuff.

    I think I’ll see if I can find a copy of this book. I hope I don’t go around seeing dead birds when I’m reading it, though.

    • Delia says:

      Let’s just say that “Little Brother” is not what the title makes him to be.
      I remember seeing a book by David Eggers at the bookstore, it was called “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”. Have you read it?

      I’d take the dead bird anytime. If I tell you what a little girl from one of the stories found in the woods, you probably would, too.

      • M-----l says:

        I haven’t read that one. I’ve only read You Shall Know Our Velocity, The Wild Things, and the short short fiction I mentioned. I mostly know him as the editor of all those McSweeney’s books I like.

        • Delia says:

          And how did you like those books? Did you write a review for them?
          I have to go and see about the McSweeney’s books – the name rings a bell but I can’t say what they are about.

  2. Jenners says:

    Sounds like a great collection. A good short story can be hard to pull off but I’ve found that, when well done, they can be so powerful. Sounds like you found some like that in this collection. Have you read Jhumpa Lahiri’s short stories yet? They are the best I’ve ever read.

    • Delia says:

      The stories in the book are the way you described them. In a novel, the author can take a bit of time to pull the reader in but in this case with the stories being so short that connection was established a lot quicker and in a more intense way.

      I found several books by Jhumpa Lahiri, which one do you recommend? There’s one called “Selected Shorts: New American Stories” which has her name on it along with other authors. Is this the book you were referring to?

  3. Vishy says:

    Wonderful review, Delia! That quote from ‘Bullhead’ about every story being true and a lie was very beautiful. Nice to know that the book brought back memories of your own childhood – it is wonderful when a book does that, isn’t it? Thanks for this beautiful review.

    • Delia says:

      Vishy, I think you would have liked that story, it’s sad and beautiful.
      It is wonderful when you can connect with a book beyond the text that you read, when the words create connections with other books and with your own memories and experiences. These are the best books, in my opinion.

  4. Delia, one of my students told me about your review. I’m delighted that you liked “Little Brother” so much. Since 2002, I have specialized in writing very short stories. There are some more posted for free reading at my website if you’re interested.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Bruce,
      I will definitely take a look at your other stories. Thank you for letting me know about them.
      Little Brother was great, innocent and creepy. I like that combination a lot.

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