Lively collection of 60 bite-sized fiction pieces.
In their exuberant introduction, the editors introduce readers to the genre of sudden fiction. As distinct from the super-short burst of narrative known as flash fiction as it is from the sort of ruminative short story one might find in a prestigious magazine, sudden fiction averages “a whopping 1,500 words,” combining the intense emotional charge of the former with the narrative arc of the latter. The anthology gathers stories from magazines and websites and includes work by well-known writers like Joyce Carol Oates, Elizabeth Berg and David Foster Wallace, as well as up-and-coming writers; it is primarily composed of American writers, but it is peppered with contributors from other countries. Best of all, there’s not a dud in the bunch. Because they are so compressed, none of the stories is particularly plot driven, but in different ways, each is a fine example of the craft of story writing. Most of them are in the first-person, showcasing a rich narrator with an idiosyncratic voice. Among the standouts are Jenny Hollowell’s beautiful “A History of Everything, Including You,” which unfolds the secret emotional life of an entire marriage in a matter of paragraphs, and Tessa Brown’s “In Reference to Your Recent Communications,” a masterly adaptation of the memo form to describe a failed relationship. The more conventionally structured stories effectively isolate a moment in time. Yann Martel’s grimly funny “We Ate the Children Last” is exemplary, as is Katherin Nolte’s painfully sharp “Before the Train and After.”
Successful and satisfying.