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Fast Machine

4.22  ·  Rating Details  ·  170 Ratings  ·  36 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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Jan 15, 2014 Lee rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 28, 2012 Kevin rated it it was amazing
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
Michael Seidlinger
Feb 29, 2012 Michael Seidlinger rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 08, 2012 Leesa rated it it was amazing
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."

Dottie B
Sep 04, 2014 Dottie B rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 26, 2012 Zac rated it it was amazing
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
Joseph Michael Owens
Apr 04, 2012 Joseph Michael Owens rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 05, 2014 Claudia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: friendsbooks
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,
Ryan Bradford
May 18, 2012 Ryan Bradford rated it really liked it
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
Vincent Scarpa
May 02, 2013 Vincent Scarpa rated it really liked it
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
Jun 17, 2012 Joe Sacksteder rated it really liked it

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
Anna Bukowski
Oct 07, 2014 Anna Bukowski rated it really liked it
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
Oct 03, 2013 Stephanie Austin rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 29, 2012 Olivia rated it it was amazing
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
Fernando Fernández
Mar 23, 2015 Fernando Fernández rated it liked it
Too many pages, needs heavy editing to become a solid volume, but that also makes it interesting for a foreign reader. I felt the urge to cut up some lines and make collages so as to not feel bad for having spent 14 euros in something that is neither a classic nor a definitely new voice (fertile style or view on the world, etc.). Nevertheless, there are some nice lines and facts which may be useful for an anthropological study on the mutations of the mind in the alternative literary scene of the ...more
Aug 31, 2015 Downward rated it liked it
this is a mostly repetitive collection of fiction that is redeemed by its bone-deep honesty. the stories here are often sexual in nature, tied up in the feelings of giving yourself to someone else or watching someone else give themselves to someone else- feelings of being on the outside of where you want to be even if when you get to where you want to be the perimeters change and you're still outside looking in. Elizabeth Ellen takes some risks here and bares some ugly truths in ways that feel c ...more
Brian Alan Ellis
Feb 01, 2014 Brian Alan Ellis rated it it was amazing
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
Matt Lewis
Feb 15, 2016 Matt Lewis rated it really liked it
Shelves: small-press
This collection of short stories/fiction starts out amazing; the stories are filled with the raw, unfiltered, unapologetic emotions of characters which may or may not be based on EE herself. The characters are complex and frustrating, not just to the reader but to themselves. They would love nothing more than to just stop doing the predictable, destructive behaviors that make their lives miserable, but can't and shouldn't be blamed for them any more than our own failings. The stories exist in a ...more
Dec 11, 2012 Joedtrinkle rated it really liked it
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
Apr 13, 2014 Anna rated it liked it
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.
Rom Kim
Mar 27, 2015 Rom Kim rated it it was amazing
The stories contained in Fast Machine are wonderful and heartbreaking. The brutality with which the prose hits you is akin to that of a prize fighter punching you hard and fierce in the face. There is no let up: each story is beautiful and demands your attention. "Winter Haven, Florida, 1984" and "I Will Destroy You" are fantastic stories.
Mellow Pages Library
Jun 01, 2013 Mellow Pages Library rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-our-shelf
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
Aug 17, 2012 Ursula rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
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
Jun 24, 2014 Brooks rated it it was amazing
"Let me ask you this, I said. How many abortions have you had this week, Jenny?"
Laryssa Wirstiuk
Aug 03, 2013 Laryssa Wirstiuk rated it liked it
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
May 02, 2012 A.M. O'Malley rated it it was amazing
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.
Rachel Holtzclaw
May 30, 2015 Rachel Holtzclaw rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
P.S. We Are Better
Mar 18, 2012 P.S. We Are Better rated it liked it
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 :)
Jun 02, 2013 Jason rated it really liked it
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
Aug 18, 2012 Helen McClory rated it really liked it
Fantastically textual, sinuously linked short story collection. My full review here:
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  • Big World
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  • Heavy Petting
  • her other mouths
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  • Bad Bad
  • The Angel in the Dream of Our Hangover
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
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“It was every-happy-person-is-the-same-and-boring-and-every-miserable-person-is-miserable-in-an-interesting-way logic. (Except miserable people are boring, too.)” 0 likes
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