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In Brief: Short Takes on the Personal

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3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  118 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
In their previous collection Judith Kitchen and Mary Paumier Jones coined the term "short" for those creative nonfiction pieces — literary rather than informational, and characteristically short — that are attracting our finest writers. Now, with a more introspective focus, this new collection emphasizes the personal as "a way of seeing the world, of expressing an interior ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published June 17th 1999 by Norton (first published June 1st 1999)
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Ben Siems
Mar 30, 2009 Ben Siems rated it liked it
One of several books I've read lately that focuses on the modern phenomenon of extreme brevity in literature. It truly is continually fascinating to experience how much a skilled author can convey in very, very few words.

That being said, this being a collection of very personal creative nonfiction, I found it not quite as dynamic or compelling as similar collections of fiction, such as Flash Fiction.

Still, if not a great read, without question, a good one, and a very good choice to have along wh
...more
Ursula
May 23, 2016 Ursula rated it it was ok
This book was underwhelming and the vast majority of these pieces were worse than mediocre. Of the 73 works roughly 17 were engaging and worthwhile. The best briefs were "One Liar's Beginnings" by Brady Udall, "Nearing 90" by William Maxwell, "Adjustments" by Jeanne Brinkman Grinnan, "Very Narrow" by Anne Carson, "Remembering, I Was Not There," by Anne Panning, "Dealing with the Discovery of Death Inside an Embassy in October 1973, in Santiago de Chile" by Ariel Dorfman, "Desire" by David Shield ...more
Steph
Jul 08, 2010 Steph rated it liked it
Standouts:

*****
Nearing 90 - William Maxwell
Long ago, a neighbor in the country looking at our flower garden, said, "Children and roses reflect their care." This is true of the very old as well.
*****
Dealing with the Discovery of Death Inside an Embassy in October of 1973, in Santiago de Chile - Ariel Dorfman

*****
Swimming with Canoes - John McPhee

*****
Stuck with Strangers - Castle Freeman, Jr.
What was served? I'm not sure, but I suspect that these unhurried rural negotiations of suggestion and ad
...more
Nancy
Sep 07, 2008 Nancy rated it really liked it
I'm a fan of the Short-Short story. There are many beautiful pieces of work in this anthology that illustrate what very few well-chosen words it takes to show movement in a story. This book is a wonderful expression of how a collection of multiple authors can follow a connected thread as the book unfolds. One idea clearly leads to the next, from story to story. While the author's of the stories should be commended for their work, the editorial decisions concerning order and framing of stories st ...more
Gill
Oct 10, 2011 Gill rated it liked it
“There was a fad in the 90's of very short fictional pieces. This is a collection. Some are quite good. Only a few are terrible.

One of the best is John McPhee's "Swimming with Canoes". It weaves together adventure, suspense, childhood recollection that is both nostalgic and frightening, and a clear description of an ancient technology, all on a few pages. I remember reading his book "The Birch Bark Canoe" 20 or 30 years ago. I don't know if the short piece here was excerpted from that book or n
...more
Wendy
Jun 03, 2008 Wendy rated it it was ok
There is some interesting work in this collection, but my beef with it is the same as my problem with Kitchen's earlier collection, IN SHORT -- most of these are excerpts, not complete works, so there's no sense of a story arc, or even a completion of thought. These short takes are a nice way to find new writers, then go and seek out their work in its full expression.
Hannah Jane
Sep 16, 2015 Hannah Jane rated it really liked it
I was somewhere between 3 and 4 stars. But the last piece, "Artifacts of Memory," pushed me towards 4. Many pieces were so-so, and I'm still not sure if I'm going to chuck this in the give-away pile. Along with "Artifacts of Memory," "Man of Letters" is also a must read.
Emily
Jan 02, 2008 Emily rated it really liked it
Shelves: undergrad
I don't believe that any of these short stories or essays is longer than five pages. These are great "Short Takes on the Personal," exquisite examples of brief pieces. My only real complaint is that a few of them end rather tritely.
Tara
Sep 29, 2007 Tara rated it it was amazing
"I focus on one hemlock twig, green needles half-penetrating the snow puff upon it. I breathe from my hara, exhailing my breath into the universe. I will know forever this twig. Of all the twigs in the forest, this has been seen."
Michael K.
Jan 23, 2013 Michael K. rated it it was amazing
The idea of "flash nonfiction" is really cool, and the variety and writing here is a real showcase. Would be very easy to read again and be surprised all over. If you even remotely like creative nonfiction, this is a must have.
Christina
Mar 20, 2012 Christina rated it it was ok
Over 70 very short stories of life as seen through the eyes of imaginative people, this was a decent read. The stories were varied whether they were a hit or a miss, but overall pretty entertaining.
Rachel Pollock
Apr 16, 2011 Rachel Pollock rated it liked it
Shelves: mfa-studies
Read this for a class i'm taking this summer in my MFA program, lots and lots of short-form essays, some brilliant, some decent, some crappy. An inspiring overview of short form constructions.
Patricia
Oct 09, 2009 Patricia rated it liked it
Personal essays by well known and not so well known authors. Great book to have in your car or bag to read in waiting rooms or when you are stuck in traffic or on hold.
Jessi
Apr 14, 2010 Jessi rated it really liked it
An amazing collections of short essays. I would recommend this to anyone interested in writing nonfiction and memoir.
Jill
Mar 29, 2010 Jill rated it really liked it
Some of them amazing, yes.
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