Long Story Short: Flash Fiction by Sixty-Five of North Carolina’s Finest Writers offers a concise, comprehensive, and compulsively readable collection of short-short stories. Concise on two counts: In total, the stories number less than 200 pages, and the longest of the stories is less than 1,700 words (the shortest is a mere 95). Comprehensive: The authors featured here make up a who’s who of writers with ties to the Old North State, including Russell Banks, Doris Betts, Will Blythe, Wendy Brenner, Orson Scott Card, Fred Chappell, Angela Davis-Gardner, Sarah Dessen, Pamela Duncan, Pam Durban, Clyde Edgerton, Philip Gerard, Gail Godwin, Randall Kenan, John Kessel, Michael Malone, Doug Marlette, Margaret Maron, Jill McCorkle, Lydia Millet, Robert Morgan, Michael Parker, Bland Simpson, Lee Smith, June Spence, Elizabeth Spencer, and Daniel Wallace, just to sample the list of contributors. And as for compulsively readable: Despite the pile of books I should have read first, as soon as Long Story Short arrived in the mail, I couldn’t resist reading at least one of the stories. Since that one was so short, I tried another. And then a third. And, as with a box of bon-bons, before I knew it….
The anthology, edited by Marianne Gingher (who also contributes a story) and published by the University of North Carolina Press, is a timely one. While Gingher points out in her introduction that short-shorts are as old as Aesop, there seems to be a growing trend toward the popularity of very short fiction in all of its forms: flash fiction, sudden fiction, microfiction, even twitter fiction and hint fiction. While many of the stories in this collection tend toward the traditional, to my mind, the book as a whole offers an array of different storytelling strategies and narrative structures, and they’re short enough that you’re able to re-read them easily to figure out how they work. Pam Durban’s “Island,” for example, struck me as so marvelous when I read it the first time that I turned around and read it again, aloud, to my wife. (And the stories are ripe for discussion too: Tara (a flash fiction writer herself) and I disagreed about whether Durban’s piece was as effective as it could be — where the heart of it was, where it might have been cut further, how it all played out.)
Today (Sunday, September 13), Gingher debuted the new collection on the closing day of the North Carolina Literary Festival, and tonight the book will be the focus of the Chapel Hill Public Library Foundation’s 50th anniversary, but even if you miss those events, there are plenty more opportunities to catch readings by the contributors. (See a full list at the bottom of this post.) In advance of the NCLF, Gingher and I talked about the book via email, and I’m grateful for her time (especially in the midst of all the festival’s busy-ness!) and glad to share our interview here.
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