The form of flash fiction (or “sudden fiction,” or “short-shorts,” depending on who you ask to describe the form) has always been fascinating to me, but I’ve found that, for every good piece of flash fiction I read, there are two or three stories so bizarre or cryptic that I wonder what the hell the expectations of the form/genre actually are.
“Flash Fiction,” appropriately, mirrors my frustration with the very form that it anthologizes. There are indeed some amazing stories in this collection, dozens of them, but there are also 1-2 page works throughout that I’ve also seen classified as “prose poems” (which I believe to be a different genre entirely), and there are “extreme fiction”-style works (post-modern, fabulist, etc.) here that hardly earn the title of “story,” and are better described (in the terminology of Michael Martone) as “fictions.”
Listen: when “Flash Fiction” is on, it’s on, and there are some truly amazing short-short stories here, but everything in this anthology is not a “story,” and to try to fit all of this short work under one umbrella is a regrettable mistake. Some of these are prose poems, and the prose poem operates under different rules; some of these are fictions, and to be called a fiction is different than to be called a story (in fact, it implies the absence of a traditional story). This book isn’t a waste of time, particularly because of some of the truly great works here, but it’s a misguided effort overall.