Book review | They Could No Longer Contain Themselves by Elizabeth J. Colen, John Jodzio, Tim Jones-Yelvington, Sean Lovelace and Mary Miller
Flash Fiction collection brings together stars
One gets the feeling that the title of this book—a compendium of five chapbooks collecting five authors’ flash fiction, all submitted to a contest—applies to the folks behind the Chicago-based Rose Metal Press, whose enthusiasm clearly led them to say, “Sod it, we’re publishing them all!”
Flash fiction—or very short stories—as a form has exploded in popularity, thanks to the Internet. Though often lazily chalked up to the way the online world has shortened our attention spans, its success is more likely due to more opened channels for what had been a fringe form. Art begets art, after all, and the greater availability of flash has brought it both greater respect and greater practitioners.
So let it be said that the authors here know what they’re doing. Jodzio’s book, Do Not Touch Me Now Not Ever, leads off the collection with an infectious sense of humor, featured in stories like “Octane,” in which a woman thinks a warlock has cast a spell on her because a pony-tailed man smiles at her. Miller—whose Big World is a personal favorite—delivers Paper and Tassels, another clinic on how to pack character work, pathos and even plot into 250 words. And Lovelace’s How Some People Like Their Eggs, originally published on its own, gets a worthy reprint here. Colen is the most restrained writer included here, and Jones-Yelvington provides a slightly punch-drunk counterpoint.
It’s not easy to review five books in four paragraphs, so visit timeoutchicago.com/books for more on each of the chapbooks.