Flash Fiction, Ctd

Stuart Dybek, who recently published two new short story collections, discusses the hard-to-define genre:

It makes sense the short form … lacks a sturdy name: It’s varied, shifting, and hard to define, and its parameters are continually up for debate. Flash fictions have a narrative quality that makes them different from classical prose poems; at the same time, they tend to have a strong lyric element that aligns them with poetry. This formal uncertainty can be an attractive quality: It helps create the possibility for formal and emotional surprise. But you also don’t want to have too much carte blanche. You never want to enter the territory where you think, “Well, I can write anything and get away with it.” …

I’m interested in writers who are able to create a more blended kind of integration between the narrative and lyric drives—and I’ve noticed that in the short form, the lyric impulse becomes more pronounced. … One source of inspiration was Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, though it’s tricky to separate that book’s short sections from one another (the work really functions as a novel). Isaac Babel, who is in many ways my favorite writer, demonstrates the extreme compression I look for in very short fiction—whenever a writer can compress that much into a short space, I always feel that what we call “poetry” is lurking close by.

Previous Dish on flash fiction here. We also featured a piece of flash fiction as A Short Story For Saturday here.