Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer by Robert Swartwood
My rating: 4/5 cats
when we got this book in the other day, i looked at it and thought: “ugh—gimmick.” and i read the three stories on the front cover and i thought—“i no longer understand the publishing industry.” and then i opened it up, just out of curiosity and saw a story by jonathan carroll. okay, book, now you have my attention. so i flipped through it, and then i read the précis, and i was totally hooked.
this isn’t flash fiction. these aren’t stories that are short just for the fuck of it. hint fiction is meant to be evocative—to make you yearn for a story that is suggested but never written. in some ways, it is very lazy—you get away with writing fewer than 25 words and calling it a day. on the other hand, it is wicked hard to get the mood right. not all of these are perfect—some of them read like o. henry “punch lines.” but some of them truly do evoke a mood in the reader:
It was Shark Week again. She flipped the T.V. off. She couldn’t bear to watch him die one more time.
He took her out for a picnic to discuss what they wanted to do about it. “You want Bud Light or O’Doul’s?” he asked her.
In the Talladega National Forest
Looking for the body, we found hundreds of burned-out lightbulbs in a clearing. Found four bodies, but not the body we were looking for.
those are wonderful, implicit. they pique my curiosity as a reader. they leave me unsatisfied, but my mind races to fill in the gaps. i am certainly glad i took some time off of cramming “information representation and retrieval” into my skull last night to read this, because many of them are haunting and mental rib-sticking. and a major eye-roll to mister james frey for his exactly twenty-five word story, as though he was trying to push the envelope just so far, to see if he could make it. fool.
i leave you with this, as i go off to my own:
Retail. Thirty-nine hours a week for eighteen years, she says, proud. Like she’s a survivor of rape and she knows it.