Standing in line at the grocery store? Stuck in a traffic jam? Waiting for a friend to get out of the bathroom? All perfect times to get a little reading in. However, it can be hard to pick up where you left off in a larger story—by the time you get back into it, it’s time to put the book back down. The perfect solution: FLASH FICTION STORIES (short, self-contained stories that take only a few minutes to read)!
- “Curriculum” by Sejal Shah (488 words)
- “Sticks” by George Saunders (392 words)
- “The Huntress” by Sofia Samatar (374 words)
- “Miracles” by Lucy Corin (369 words)
- “Unlikable” by Deb Olin Unferth (331 words)
- “Baby Dolls” by Becky Robinson (174 words)
- “Give It Up” by Franz Kafka (134 words)
- “AsthmaAttack” by Etgar Keret (127 words)
Pulled from the anthology Hint Fiction, a collection of works running 25 words or less, this story reveals a key trick of the flash fictionist’s trade: let the title to do the heavy lifting. In isolation, “I kept myself alive” might be construed as a feel-good mantra — but in the context of the title, it provides a morbid twist on the setup-punchline structure of a joke.
It might be a little longer than your average short short, but in two paragraphs, Saunders seamlessly works in an emotional arc that’s more impactful than most novels. Most impressive is how he suggests a fleshed-out backstory through a handful of asides: Rod’s helmet, the father’s old army medals. And, like all great flash fiction, its ending hits stunningly hard and stays with you for a lot longer than three minutes.
When peeping through the hole, Alice loses her balance and falls in. She floats down slowly into the hole, and observes everything around her. Then Alice enters Wonderland, where she witnesses a number of weird things. This entire magical tale is fabricated and imaginary, which makes it a good fiction to enjoy.
William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is another apt example of fiction. The story of the play moves around the main character, Prince Hamlet. He is informed by the Ghost of his father that his uncle murdered his father, King Hamlet, and married his wife and Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude. The Ghost elicits a promise from Hamlet that he will avenge his murder by killing the murderer. This becomes Hamlet’s dilemma. He vows to kill his uncle, but delays it on one pretext or another. Overall, the story is all about the intrigues and plots of the royal castle of Elsinore in Denmark. The story may have some connection with the real life events and characters, yet it is completely a fabricated story created by Shakespeare to entertain the Elizabeth audience of that time.
Undermajordomo Minor—the title dares you to say it out loud—is set in a Kafkaesque, Alpine but otherwise geographically vague part of central Europe; in its quirky, melancholy charm it’s not leagues away from The Grand Budapest Hotel. (In fact Dewitt may have written the greatest Wes Anderson movie never made.) Our hero is the callow and unprepossessing but still strangely appealing Lucien Minor, known as Lucy, who quits his small town, where he is resolutely unpopular, to take the position of undermajordomo at the vast, rambling, crumbling Castle von Aux. There, amid a pageant of human pettiness and oddity, he gradually discovers within himself a resourcefulness and a curious charm that transform him into an oddly irresistible hero.
The global financial crisis has not inspired much comedy, but Paul Murray (who made this list in 2010 for his Irish-boarding-school charmer Skippy Dies) finds nihilistic humor in a band of bankers capitalizing on the post-crash chaos. His way in? A burned-out novelist, coincidentally named Paul, who wants to immortalize a banker — that contemporary blank-souled everyman — in his next book. Murray’s deadpan dialogue thrives in finance’s theater of the absurd, but his humanist touch lifts The Mark and the Void into something unexpectedly moving, a paean to personal relations amid spreadsheets and speculation.
Mark MacKay on January 30, 2012 8:59 pm
35. Travelogue: a story with a plot centering on a significant amount of travel