Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rambling through Mississippi Review 16.1

I'm reading through the Kim Chinquee edited volume of the Mississippi Review, entirely dedicated to Flash Fiction. There are two pieces I don't get yet--Carol Novack's "Quantum Physics" and Diane Williams' "Wrigglework"--and by "don't get" I mean I don't know why they wind up the way they do, but I'll give them another go tomorrow when my head isn't swimming with the words of everyone else.

My hope is that the volume will work as a reader for the flash unit of my junior level fiction workshop. Our first class meeting is Tuesday 9am, and I have yet to write the syllabus. But the first quarter of the issue has got me a little worried--most of the stories, while brilliant, are devoted to domestic and relationship subjects, sorting out into Mom, Dad, and lovers categories. While achingly beautiful and unflinching, the set is starting to make me--a writer of surreal, glib trifles--nervous. So when I get to Greg Gerke's "I Want to Write Flash Fiction" I get pretty paranoid and take his satire personally. However, relief comes quick from the marvelous weirdness of the Grandbois bothers, Daniel and Peter. I never read their work before, but already I wanna buy their books and watch their family on Thanksgiving-cam. But it isn't until I reach the stories by Holland, Landon, and Lisicky that the organization opens up to me--here are three stories about individuals attempting to escape life . . . So part one is about families and lovers, part two transitions into weirdness, part three is existential, and--

wait. Holland, Landon, Lisicky? Well, crap. It's alphabetical. I'm an idiot. I must give up reading for purposes.

An hour later, I can now attest to the excellence and variety of this collection, as well as its appropriateness for my students. I hope they plagiarize "Mr. Cat," "Interstate," "Rodney and Chelsea," and "Save Me or I'll Kill You." That would be fun.

I can see how hard Kim worked to represent the state of the art while putting together the strongest possible issue. That said, there aren't any pieces in the "shock first-story later" punk mode. I wonder it that was that on purpose or did she not get those kinds of subs? I'm curious, because some days it seems that self-obsessed rumination on blood/sex/feces is to flash what "my wife doesn't understand me after twenty-five years" is to conventional fiction--overdone and rarely original.


Jason Jordan said...

I liked the issue too, despite its small font. :p

Ethel Rohan said...

A thoughtful and interesting review, Laura, thanks.