Review: Nothing Short Of: Selected Tales From 100 Word Story (reviewed by Claire Polders)

nothingshortof-promo.jpgNothing Short Of: Selected Tales From 100 Word Story

Edited by Grant Faulkner, Lynn Mundell, and Beret Olsen 

138 Pages

Outpost19 (2018)

$12.00 paperback / $9.99 ebook,

ISBN-13: 9781944853488

“What can a hundred words do?” the editors ask in their introduction to Nothing Short of: Selected Tales From 100 Word Story

Well, the stories collected in this anthology certainly impress, startle, haunt, entertain, and make you think about what remains unsaid in each chiseled piece. There are gaps in these tales, distances in meaning you are invited to cross. I feel compelled to know, for example, what truly goes on in the life of the narrator in “Confessions of a former skinhead” in which Becky Tuch writes: “Our mothers didn’t recognize us. We were fists clenched tight, black wheels spinning.”

Each tiny tale packs a punch, so what can a collection of more than a hundred 100-word stories do? Reading this rich and affecting anthology is a wild ride through humanity, a psychoemotional roller coaster that transports you from divorce parties to child loss, from abuse to stolen identities, from hope to death and back. Naturally, there is a lot of heartbreak in this collection—wrong love, unrequited love, impossible love. We are all so human, these stories say, so flawed in our behavior and miserable in our circumstances. We cannot even share our dreams: “Over pancake breakfast, I tell you that Mary Shelley, only nineteen, dreamed of Frankenstein. You say she died of a brain tumor at fifty-three.” (From “Part-time dreamer” by Maggie Bohara).

The variety in landscape through which this collection takes you is dazzling and enticing, a kaleidoscopic intoxication. The anthology lifts you into a planetarium, drops you at a table in a Japanese restaurant, guides you into an octopus bar, lets you hide under a piano, leaves you shivering on Antarctica, and convicts you to a prison cell. The editors did a brilliant job in arranging the stories in such a way that you’re not thrown about too much from one extreme into another, but can enjoy a common atmosphere for a while, before the stories dive into a new direction. 

One of my favorite tales is by Jeff Friedman. In “Old men,” he describes how old men lose their gravity in the afternoon and start to float. “Some old men turn over and over in space, their wallets and keys dropping from their pockets. And others shoot up like hot air balloons. But on the ground, two old men clutch fire hydrants as if they were lovers and won’t let go.”

I’m also in love with “The Hive” by Ingrid Jendrzejewski, which starts with the words: “We’re buzzing in our pews, the electricity of raw gossip flitting around us like so many wings. We feed on it, spread it around like a honey that sticks.”

In this must-have collection of gems, which brings together some of the best flash writers in the world, you careen through a real and imagined world full of complexities and wonders. When you come to the end, you may need to brush off your clothes. Tight tales always pick up dust.

Claire Polders

Read four sample stories on the publisher’s website.

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