My review of Best Small Fictions 2017 is up on the SmokeLong Quarterly site. As with all book reviews, there’s a bit of culling that has to be done when writing about an anthology of stories. A typical review doesn’t have space to discuss every story, much less every story you like. This is even more of problem with a flash fiction anthology which can easily contain scores of entries.
So, I’d like to mention a few more stories in BSF 2017 that I really admired but didn’t make it in the review for reasons of length or because they didn’t fit with the themes I found running through much of the other work. And still, even after this post, most stories in BSF 2017 will have gone unmentioned. It’s not because I didn’t think them good. Without exception each piece of flash was exceptional. All merited inclusion. But there are fifty-five of them. Too many to speak of with the care and detail they deserve.
So, I’ll begin with “Triangle” by Larry Brown. Setup: Father and Daughter. Mom’s not mentioned, but after we get that there’s been a separation the title clues us into the current power struggle between the family’s three members. It also refers to the blue, triangle-shaped cereal the girl eats for dinner while doing her homework. “That’s your dinner?” Dad asks. “That’s yours?” she counters, meaning the beer in his hand. And pow, we get it. Fissioned nuclear family, despondent and dipsomaniac dad. The scene is heart wrenching and powerfully rendered.
Todd Kaneko’s “Metalhead’s Pledge” demonstrates that just because a story is fewer than a thousand words doesn’t mean it can’t encompass decades. The skill with which it’s done here – a span from grade school to early adulthood — is surely one reason the story appears in the volume. Not only is the time compression masterly, so’s the way the piece tracks current America, poking at our sudden awareness of just how NOT post-racial we are. But the story does end on a note of hope.
One more. “Help” by Pamela Painter. Denise has taken the semester off to work as a barback and earn money for art supplies. She hates the job. One night the bartender locks a couple in the bathroom who’d gone in there to have sex. He thinks it’s funny, but the moment recalls something similar for Denise, when she was banging on a door and calling out for help. “Help” is a text-book example of concision, easily one of the shortest pieces in the volume. Yet, it’s vast, and my summary hardly does it justice. I can only recommend you read it.