Short Shorts: An Antho...
Irving Howe
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Short Shorts: An Anthology of the Shortest Stories

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  102 ratings  ·  19 reviews

Short Shorts
is a delightful anthology of miniature masterpieces. Here are thirty-eight brief, brilliant flashes of fiction, both classic and contemporary. Each work is superb, intense, and speaks to the human condition in a profound, often provocative way–a truly outstanding collection by some of the worlds greatest authors.

Unknown Binding, 262 pages
Published January 1st 1982 by David R. Godine Publisher
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This is a fine collection of what Howe here, in the 80s, dubs "Short Short Fiction" and which was called "Microfiction" in the 90s and which we now call "Flash Fiction". I feel it's a useful collection for editors, like me, who are trying to get a handle on what constitutes valid standards for successful flash fiction (through offering the attempts of literary greats) - modified for genre in my case - and also for modern writers of flash who may also wonder just what they can and can;t consider...more
Stephen Fielder
I've always been fascinated with the short story form. Long ago, I even attempted to write a few. This anthology was especially attractive because the short stories are all "short shorts." What is the smallest possible story that still holds up as an engaging piece of fiction? Well, the editors here have a basket full of answers to that. I read this book decades ago, and a couple of the short shorts here have hung on in my mind for all those years. "The Three Hermits" by Leo Tolstoy and "If Not...more
Deniz Yardımcı L9 – 10
With a diverse palette of writing selected by Irving Howe and Ilana W. Howe, differing from Kafka to Hemingway, the first anthology ever to be written about short stories, Short Shorts, seems to amaze readers by the quality of the clear and concise writing. Although this book is mostly for high-English-leveled readers, there are stories that are for lower-English leveled readers, too. These are either the stories from authors who use a simpler language like Hemingway or the...more
Ben Loory
it's silly to give this collection only 3 stars, as it includes some of my all-time favorite stories, like tolstoy's "the three hermits," joao guimaraes rosa's "the third bank of the river," kafka's "first sorrow," and two, count 'em two, sherwood anderson stories (god DAMN but sherwood anderson was great, huh?), but as for the rest, there's nothing too earthshaking. and the only real discovery (for me) was grace paley. this story of hers, "wants"??? do you know this story? do you know grace pal...more
This is a collection of the shortest of short stories by some of the best and most familiar authors and some lesser known authors. Some of the works are only two or three pages long. I was able to finish stories in a few short minutes, off and on throughout the day whenever I nursed the baby. I am in awe of this craft of short story writing. The authors are able to establish setting, develop characters and draw you through an intensely emotional journey in so few words. What a gift!
Nov 25, 2007 Jana rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those curious about short stories
Actually I found very few stories in this collection that really excited me. I want to publish an anthology of short (flash) fiction for this very reason. I can't find one on the market that I really like and I think America's classrooms could use a good resource. I'm going to flip through this one and see if there is even one story I'd like to get permission to publish-but none of them haunt me the way some of my student's short pieces have!
This is an excellent collection of very short stories, few if any exceeding 9,000 words. Tolstoy, Hemingway, Marquez, and dozens of other great writers are represented. If there's a caveat, it's that most of the stories avoid twist endings and, indeed, a majority seem to end without obvious or concrete resolutions. It is perhaps no coincidence that my two favorites did, in fact, come to very firm conclusions.
Macarena Guerrero
This is probably one of the best gifts I have ever received. This is a book full of great worldwide shorts stories that are funny, sad, emotional, intriguing, unexpected, etc etc. you can re read every single one of this shorts stories and never get bored. Its a great compilation. It's great if you are not familiar with international authors, this is a good way of learning some new names.
Although I liked the concept of the book, I now understand why short story compilations typically contain stories of various lengths or stories with a common author, era, etc. Individually, many of the stories were phenomenal. Collectively, the stories were disjointed and rough. Many of the stories are very painful reads which, all together, give the reader little rest.
Really interesting pieces by a bunch of great authors...Babel, Chekhov, Kafka, Hemingway, Joyce...a great train/plane/waiting room book, because when the title says "short shorts," it's not kidding; most of the stories are about 3 -4 pages, and all pack a lotta punch.
A diverse and spectacular collection of stories by the great writers and by many surprisingly wonderful unknowns which reveals truth after truth about what it means to be human.
Good compilation of short short stories from different parts of the world, interesting (unfinished) stories.
Jerry Guarino

I love this early collection of flash fiction before it was called flash fiction.
Some wonderfully crafted very short stories by some of the world's best writers.
Worth it for Blue Bouquet by Octavio Paz, In The Night and Swaddling Clothes.
Really nice collection of literature in snack form. Lovely reading.
Kevin Gallan
i loved it ....some very good stories by very good writers
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Irving Howe was an American literary and social critic and a prominent figure of the Democratic Socialists of America.
More about Irving Howe...
World of Our Fathers: The Journey of the East European Jews to America and the Life They Found and Made A Treasury of Yiddish Stories: Revised and Updated Edition Leon Trotsky Politics and the Novel Essential Works of Socialism

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“The usual short story cannot have a complex plot, but it often has a simple one resembling a chain with two or three links. The short short, however, doesn't as a rule have even that much -
you don't speak of a chain when there's only one link. ...

Sometimes ... the short short appears to rest on nothing more than a fragile anecdote which the writer has managed to drape with a quantity of suggestion. A single incident, a mere anecdote - these form the spine of the short short.

Everything depends on intensity, one sweeping blow of perception. In the short short the writer gets no second chance. Either he strikes through at once or he's lost. And because it depends so heavily on this one sweeping blow, the short short often approaches the condition of a fable. When you read the two pieces by Tolstoy in this book, or I.L. Peretz's 'If Not Higher,' or Franz Kafka's 'The Hunter Gracchus,' you feel these writers are intent upon 'making a point' - but obliquely, not through mere statement. What they project is not the sort of impression of life we expect in most fiction, but something else: an impression of an idea of life. Or: a flicker in darkness, a slight cut of being. The shorter the piece of writing, the more abstract it may seem to us. In reading Paz's brilliant short short we feel we have brushed dangerously against the sheer arbitrariness of existence; in reading Peretz's, that we have been brought up against a moral reflection on the nature of goodness, though a reflection hard merely to state.

Could we say that the short short is to other kinds of fiction somewhat as the lyric is to other kinds of poetry? The lyric does not seek meaning through extension, it accepts the enigmas of confinement. It strives for a rapid unity of impression, an experience rendered in its wink of immediacy. And so too with the short short. ...

Writers who do short shorts need to be especially bold. They stake everything on a stroke of inventiveness. Sometimes they have to be prepared to speak out directly, not so much in order to state a theme as to provide a jarring or complicating commentary. The voice of the writer brushes, so to say, against his flash of invention. And then, almost before it begins, the fiction is brought to a stark conclusion - abrupt, bleeding, exhausting. This conclusion need not complete the action; it has only to break it off decisively.

Here are a few examples of the writer speaking out directly. Paz: 'The universe is a vast system of signs.' Kafka in 'First Sorrow': The trapeze artist's 'social life was somewhat limited.' Paula Fox: 'We are starving here in our village. At last, we are at the center.' Babel's cossack cries out, 'You guys in specs have about as much pity for chaps like us as a cat for a mouse.' Such sentences serve as devices of economy, oblique cues. Cryptic and enigmatic, they sometimes replace action, dialogue and commentary, for none of which, as it happens, the short short has much room.

There's often a brilliant overfocussing.

“Let's press ahead a little further by sketching out a few variations among short shorts:

Mishima, Shalamov, Babel, W. C. Williams.) In these short shorts the time span is extremely brief, a few hours, maybe even a few minutes: Life is grasped in symbolic compression. One might say that these short shorts constitute epiphanies (climactic moments of high grace or realization) that have been tom out of their contexts. You have to supply the contexts yourself, since if the contexts were there, they'd no longer be short shorts.

LIFE ROLLED UP. (Examples: Tolstoy's 'Alyosha the Pot,' Verga's 'The Wolf,' D. H. Lawrence's 'A Sick Collier.') In these you get the illusion of sustained narrative, since they deal with lives over an extended period of time; but actually these lives are so compressed into typicality and paradigm, the result seems very much like a single incident. Verga's 'Wolf' cannot but repeat her passions, Tolstoy's Alyosha his passivity. Themes of obsession work especially well in this kind of short short.

SNAP-SHOT OR SINGLE FRAME. (Examples: Garda Marquez, Boll, Katherine Anne Porter.) In these we have no depicted event or incident, only an interior monologue or flow of memory. A voice speaks, as it were, into the air. A mind is revealed in cross-section - and the cut is rapid. One would guess that this is the hardest kind of short short to write: There are many pitfalls such as tiresome repetition, being locked into a single voice, etc.

LIKE A FABLE. (Examples: Kafka, Keller, von Kleist, Tolstoy's 'Three Hermits.') Through its very concision, this kind of short short moves past realism. We are prodded into the fabulous, the strange, the spooky. To write this kind of fable-like short short, the writer needs a supreme self-confidence: The net of illusion can be cast only once. When we read such fable-like miniatures, we are prompted to speculate about significance, teased into shadowy parallels or semi allegories. There are also, however, some fables so beautifully complete (for instance Kafka's 'First Sorrow') that we find ourselves entirely content with the portrayed surface and may even take a certain pleasure in refusing interpretation.

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