Monday, July 19, 2010

A Flash of Brilliance

I've been on the look out for a genre that I was unfamiliar with for the Take Another Chance Challenge, Challenge 6: Genre Switch-Up --
Go to this list of book genres and pick a genre that you have NEVER read before. Find a book from that genre, read it, and write about it. Note: If you seriously cannot find a genre that you have never read, then pick the genre that is as far away from what you normally read.
I went to the list but I'm a pretty diverse reader so I had trouble finding something I had never read before.  Then, a couple of months ago, Rob of Rob Around Books started a challenge he calls the "Flash Clash" where he has been comparing five different works of flash fiction with ratings and one word reviews.  It's a great idea and I highly suggest you check it out!

If you aren't familiar with flash fiction (and before Rob's challenge, I wasn't), it is fiction of "extreme brevity" or "short short stories".  Usually, it's considered to be stories of 300 to 1000 words.  Of course, some of the classic short stories I've read may fit into this category but I've never read a book entirely of these very short tales so I chose one from Rob's list.  Israeli author Etgar Keret's The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God & Other Stories was one that I could get from my library system so I decided to start with this one.

I had a great time with this book for so many reasons.  First, I don't think I've ever read an Israeli author before and the subject matter of some of these stories was entirely unique for me.  Even the feel of some of them was just different from what I'm used to reading.  It was refreshing.

Next, I think I'm really a fan of flash fiction.  Many times I have an issue with short stories because I feel they have ideas that beg to be fleshed out.  But somehow with these stories, they are a brief enough glimpse that they feel complete.  I don't know if this is the feel for the entire genre or just for Keret's work.  It's definitely something I want to explore.  One place to start will be Flash Fiction Online and another will be some of the other volumes that Rob has been reading.

Finally, I think there must be a definite advantage to a writer to be able to just get an idea down on paper and then move on.  The stories may be brief but they are polished and there is a very wide variety of topics that are touched on in this one small volume.  It definitely keeps the reader on their toes!

One thing I love from Rob's posts are his one word reviews.  I asked permission to borrow his idea and here are my very brief thoughts on the stories in this volume.

The Story About a Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God - touching
Goodman - ambiguous
Hole in the Wall - depressing
A Souvenir of Hell - disturbing
Uterus - queasy
Breaking the Pig - sweet
Cocked and Locked - gritty
The Flying Santinis - unbending
Korbi's Girl - accountable
Shoes - thoughtful
Missing Kissinger - hurtful
Rabin's Dead - symbolic
Plague of the Firstborn - biblical
Siren - honorable
Good Intentions - good
Katzenstein - ironic
The Mysterious Disappearance of Alon Shemesh - mysterious
One Last Story and That's It - strong
Jetlag - strange
The Son of the Head of the Mossad - inevitable
Pipes - hopeful

Short and sweet (and sometimes very disturbing),

Support our site and buy The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God & Other Stories on Amazon or find it at your local library.  We borrowed our copy from the library.


  1. I've never heard of flash fiction before, Kristen. I like short stories when I'm in the mood for them because they have to be so well-written to convey the whole essence in so few words - these sound as though they take that concept to a new level. Definitely a genre to look out for.

    And I love the idea of one-word reviews! I sometimes used to do that on Amazon listmania (not that I have any lists on there at the moment)eg:
    A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - Harrowing
    Words from a Glass Bubble by Vanessa Gebbie - Depressing

  2. I've never heard of this either ... and I'm not surprised that I heard about it from you -- my boundary-breaking, never met a genre I won't try friend!

    And I can't even fathom the concept of me doing one word reviews!

  3. The photo on the front made me think "Oh, a cute little cartoon man....OH. WAIT."

    PS: I really DO look a little like Lily Cole! I've never heard of her until you mentioned it. That's the first time I've been told I look like someone and I actually agree.

  4. I've never heard the term "flash fiction" before, but I LOVE it. Previously I've always heard these bitty little short stories called "short shorts", which makes me think of, well, short shorts. And then I feel all awkward and self-conscious about my knees. "Flash fiction" is way better.

  5. Tracy - At first the one-word reviews were easy but then when I didn't want to be repetitive, it started taking a lot of thought to come up with something original.

    Jenners - Aww ... and I learn a lot of new things from your blog too!

    Paige - Seriously! I was thrown off by that cartoon too.

    Jenny - Haha ... short shorts!