Blog Post #12 – Flash Stories
I have started writing flash nonfiction. It was going to be my chosen form for honours and even though I’ve taken a leave of absence I’m still enraptured by it. I like the way short shorts are immediate, affecting and can stir untold stories from within the reader.
As part of my now postponed research I began reading Lydia Davis’ book Can’t and Won’t and its been lending me a lot of inspiration.
I Ask Mary About Her Friend, the Depressive, and His Vacation
One year, she says
“He’s away in the Badlands.”
The next year, she says
“He’s away in the Black Hills.”
Lydia does not call her work flash nonfiction and doesn’t like to categorise it all. In an interview published in the Paris Review she says,
Another problem with terminology is that my so-called stories could fall into so many categories. I don’t want to have to stop and think, Today I wrote a philosophical meditation, or, Today I wrote an anecdote. Today I wrote a vignette. Today I wrote an epi . . . what is it, an epigram or an epigraph? I always forget. The point is, I don’t want that kind of worry.
Nevertheless, her book is changing the way I think about personal stories. Sometimes her stories are cheeky and overtly fictional, but other times I am deeply moved by ruminations on the simplest things.
I was looking into the face of a very small fried egg, a quail egg, on my plate, and it occurred to me that if the outcome had been different, the egg would at this very moment still have been looking up at someone, but at someone else, not me. The egg would have been looking up at a different fork, or even the same fork, but in a different hand. My hand would have been somewhere else, maybe in a Chicago morgue.
It is inspiring to think even those little things that shoot through my head on the way to work or while staring out the window might have some artistic merit. In the aforementioned interview Lydia uses the example of her cornmeal making little condensations.
The cornmeal, for example, is certainly not dramatic, but I noticed what it was doing and suddenly that cornmeal seemed like a little living thing to me. It was creating something all on its own. Some people wouldn’t notice that or might think that’s a stupid idea. But I think, If it’s interesting to me, I’ll try to convey it.