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Fast Machine

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  118 ratings  ·  31 reviews
The stories in FAST MACHINE come in three sizes: flash, regular, and too-long-for-journal-publication. Some were previously published. Some are brand-spanking new. The opening story, "State Liquor," concerns a twenty-five-year-old woman and her eighteen-year-old husband trying to buy alcohol on their way to their strip mall jobs, the afternoon of their wedding. In "Fistful...more
Paperback, 376 pages
Published February 14th 2012 by Short Flight / Long Drive Books (first published February 12th 2012)
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I've been reading EE for about a dozen years, first as submissions to the site I edit (one of my rejections once made her cry, she says), then as submissions I accepted and read on other sites online, and now in this omnibus of apparently everything she's published and posted since the internet came of age, so much more than I ever knew she'd written, so consistently good and consistently surprising -- usually autobiographical in the best way: that is, apparently autobiographical elements in the...more
Yeah, I'm old friends with EE and I published her first book a few years back but even if I didn't know her, I'd be blown away by this solid punch of a book. The real standouts here are the ones that blur nonfiction and fiction (it's all in the details) and the longer stories like Winter haven, Florida, 1984, Period Sex, and the closer, Halfsies.
When I was nearing the end I texted EE and said: "I'm 99 pages from finishing your book." And she responded with: "Haha. Not sure if that's good or bad...more
Michael Seidlinger
This collection is proof that in every waking moment of our lives exists a story in and of itself waiting for a talented enough writer to make it memorable and interesting.
like the bible, this book is very small, physically. it has a lot of stories printed on very thin smooth pages. you will be surprised by its weight (literally and emotionally).
i laughed a lot during this collection, and was also moved a bit. i felt moved less frequently than i laughed, though. there are so many stories in this thing (something like 94 stories, over the course of 368 pages).
this book seems really good for the person on-the-go. most of the stories are 3 or 4 pages long, (the ones...more
Mar 08, 2012 Leesa rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: beating-heart ppls
i loved it i loved it. and i loved how some of the stories were long and some were ittybitty. and in one story ee writes: "we sit like this a while, not saying anything, your hand changing stations, mine stopping you when i hear something i like: rush's "tom sawyer," led zeppelin's "when the levee breaks." I have stopped wondering when you'll kiss me."

Joseph Michael Owens
Micro-review: the book is amazing, truly. I love that the stories are so well balanced regardless of length, and by that I mean, each one has a distinct punch to it. If you read this book without knowing Elizabeth Ellen wrote it, it'd still be clear the author was in complete control over her (or his) voice on the pages; every story is written with a palpable sense of confidence, and every story feels important -- a characteristic that is lost with some collections when "filler" stories are adde...more
Big, brave book.

I loved this book. I've been reading Elizabeth Ellen for years, but I was not prepared for scope of this collection. I can tell you my favorites - probably 1984 and Halfsies - but I read all these pieces interdependently, and the momentum they build is breathtaking. Really. I felt like the breath was knocked out of me when I had finished.

It's a sprawling book, and, structurally you would think it might not work. But it does. There are lengthy pieces that feel much like memoir,...more
Dottie B
Well first of all, this book is a great value. I love good values. My favorite store is the Budget Center. I bet they would sell this book there. There's so many wonderful stories inside. If you broke it down, each story costs about 28 cents. That's cheaper than coffee! I "heart" coffee. I could have done without the SCANDALOUS photo on the back of the book though. I have grandchildren in my house, Ellen! Put some clothes on! Your stories about your husband remind me of when Roger and I were you...more
Ryan Bradford
There are only four words, repeated twice, on the exterior of Elizabeth Ellen’s Fast Machine, which I just typed. On the back, there is a photograph of the author, clad in a leather jacket, stockings and looking off to her right. She looks like someone (out of frame) has begun a “I have good news and bad news” conversation and they’ve moved on to the bad news. It’s a look of fleeting happiness, trepidation and building rage.

I think this picture is a better summation of Ellen’s work than any blur...more
Vincent Scarpa
Good lord, Elizabeth Ellen is something else. I forced myself to read this over the course of a month, though the temptation was to take an afternoon and devour the near 400 hundred pages of story in one sitting. I'm glad I opted for self-control, because doing so has allowed me to carry the book with me—literally and figuratively—for weeks now, and I've just finished the final story—the perfect, brilliant "Halfsies"—this evening. I'm sad to be finished, but so humbled and in awe of these storie...more
Joe Sacksteder

One of my favorites was Winter Haven. I worked in a boarding school for a few years, and I've been known to write a few stories about the volatile dynamic of teenage girls penned together in such a setting, especially during a long winter. It's poignant in this story how girls can put on tough exteriors that hide a woundedness and vulnerability. I've worked at rich schools and poor schools, and privileged problems are way scarier.

Lots of love too for Last American Woman. Here we have su...more
Anna Bukowski
I bought this at Powell's in Portland because it wore a note that said "this book will make you fall in love with writing again." TRUE! It's short and long and compelling and beautiful and ugly. Her style is refreshing; it's easy to get lost in the prose. I couldn't get enough of it when she let the short stories run long. The boarding school piece was my favorite. So, if you want to fall in love with writing again - just read it.
Stephanie Austin
There's something like 400 little stories in here. Some are a page. Some half a page. Every once in awhile, I'd get the feeling that Elizabeth Ellen put everything she's ever written-- long, drawn out stories to notes on a cocktail napkin--into this collection. Reading it is like a hazard, a mish-mash, a jumbled up twisty thing...that I could not put down. At the heart of all that lust and pain and heartache and insanity is this recurring (at least, it seemed to be she was recurring) protagonist...more
This book left me feeling raw. Ellen packs incredible intensity into a tiny space, and FAST MACHINE is both addicting and exhausting to read. I've never read a collection that took me to such extremes; at some points I hated it, didn't understand a particular short (or maybe a few in a row) or why the characters' actions felt so invasive to me as a reader, but I always picked it back up knowing there would be a sudden burst from her prose--a moment of truth from the chaos within and around the c...more
Brian Alan Ellis
If you asked (you wouldn’t, but if you did) what the perfect book was, I’d be hard-pressed not to answer with: Fast Machine.

For starters, the book is beautifully designed, and despite its length of nearly 400 pages, is small enough to fit inside a purse or coat pocket (which doesn’t mean you should steal it; the book won’t cost you much, anyway).

Secondly, the stories therein (like, 100 of them!) are funny, honest, brave, sad, poignant; compact and durable; a pleasure to the eyes and to the mind...more
I really liked this. Unique, semi-consistent mental state. Period Sex and The Loyalists were definitely my favorite, the latter mostly because of the similarity to my childhood. Parts of that story actually freaked me out to the point where I stopped reading it; it was so eerily close to home and well-described.

The one pastoral story about going to Wyoming and having to cut her arm off sort of got on my nerves, just because it seemed too--I don't know--cute (which sounds strange, because of the...more
First time reading a book of short stories like this. I'm glad it was recommended to me because I probably wouldn't have picked it up on my own. Overall, I like it. I struggled a bit with some of the really short ones because there was often too little context to catch any meaning. Maybe that's the point.. but I just didn't get anything out of them. I really liked some of the longer ones.
Mellow Pages Library
matt wrote a paired review for Mellow Pages Review with Elizabeth Ellen's Fast Machine.

Here's a bit:

"See, when I read Elizabeth Ellen for the first time, it wasn’t really my first time. She came out with a chapbook on Future Tense called Before You She Was A Pit Bull. Many of the stories in the chapbook are in the big book. I was rereading a part of my life when I was happy, ensconced in a Seattle forbidden to me previously but now/then open and bleeding like warm concrete in summer. Elizabeth’s...more
This book changed my writing life. Seriously, I learned how to write flash fiction while reading this wonderful collection. For that reason alone it merits 5 stars. Let me not diminish Elizabeth Ellen's storytelling talents, though. Ms. Ellen has the rare ability to thrive in minimalistic flash fiction while still hooking you with a compelling thirty page narrative. Her writing is fiercely honest, clever, sometimes funny, and always unafraid. Among the best stories in the collection are "Winter...more
"Let me ask you this, I said. How many abortions have you had this week, Jenny?"
Laryssa Wirstiuk
The stories in "Fast Machine" were really hit or miss, and I wish the collection had been better edited to show some sort of cohesion or simply to weed out the less-than-fine stories. Some of the stories really blew my mind. For example, "The Last American Woman" will probably haunt me for years to come. But many other stories, especially in the second half of the collection, seemed so unfinished an unformed that I barely had any interest in reading them. I'd say read the first half of this book...more
A.M. O'Malley
Fast Machine by Elizabeth Ellen left me panting for more. This writer is particularly inspiring for her daring, yet emotionally honest approach to her subject matter. The voice is irreverent and mature. It's unclear whether it's memoir or fiction and it doesn't even matter. I can't gush enough for this flash memoir/fiction form and this author's expert twist on said form.

I also loved the actual size and heft of the book. It was designed very pleasingly.
P.S. We Are Better
An audio discussion of FAST MACHINE with Sarah and Pablo D'Stair can be found at the following link to the literature discussion podcast "P.S. We Are Better Than You (random talk about random books)"

NOTE: The Three Star rating was chosen not as a reflection of opinion, but because we feel that it best represents the nuanced discussion. We do not really "do" star ratings :)
This book is successful in the artistic sense, because the weird mix of empathy/disgust/titillation/inspiration you experience while reading these varied but consistent stories seems exactly the thing Elizabeth intended. It's engrossing and well-crafted but not overly clever in the sense of writing that tries to wink at you every other sentence.
Helen McClory
Fantastically textual, sinuously linked short story collection. My full review here:
Kevin Fanning
This is great, really enjoying it. It's very long so I just keep it by my bed and read a story or two every so often. Kind of don't want to rush through it.
Kurt Mueller
There's like a million stories in here, and they're all pretty good. This is nice, edgy literary fiction in small doses that sticks with you.
Aussergewöhnlich !!
Siel Ju
Reading this little red book was such a visceral and intense experience. The kind of read you want to urge on everyone you know --
Chelsea Martin
i have lent this book to some of my favorite people
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Elizabeth Ellen's stories have appeared in numerous online and print journals over the last ten years, including elimae, Quick Fiction, Hobart, Lamination Colony, Muumuu House, HTMLGIANT, and many others. She is the author of the chapbook Before You She Was a Pit Bull (Future Tense) and her collection of flash fictions, Sixteen Miles Outside of Phoenix, was included in A Peculiar Feeling of Restle...more
More about Elizabeth Ellen...
Before You She Was a Pit Bull Lazy Fascist Review #1 Die letzte Amerikanerin - Zwölf Stories A Thousand & One Others, Yes (chapbook) A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness: Four Chapbooks of Short Short Fiction by Four Women

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