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Sudden Fiction: American Short-Short Stories

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  504 ratings  ·  55 reviews
Here are 70 of the very best short-short stories of recent years, including contributions from such contemporary writers as Raymond Carver, Leonard Michaels and John Updike; a few modern masters such as Hemingway and Cheever; and an assortment of talented new young writers. Sudden Fiction brilliantly captures the tremendous popularity of this new and distinctly American fo ...more
Paperback, 264 pages
Published December 31st 1983 by Gibbs Smith
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Average rating 3.82  · 
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Glenn Russell

Sudden Fiction - 70 American short-story stories collected here (each from 1 to 4 pages) along with reflections by many outstanding American authors on the meaning and practice of writing what some call skippers, snappers, blasters, flash fiction or simply very short stories. For me, reading each work was like a flash of lightning.

To serve as incentive to pick up this collection, below are a batch of blaster beginnings:

A SUDDEN STORY by Robert Coover
Once upon a time, suddenly, while it still c
May 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Perhaps you have seen Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. If so, you will doubtless recall the scene in which Indiana Jones shoots the Mysterious Black Swordsman dead in two seconds instead of engaging in a protracted fight scene. And yet, despite the lack of drama, despite the fact that you don't see Indiana Jones defeat his foe with a cunning combination of bull whip, acrobatics, and fisticuffs, there's no doubt in your that he could do so, and that the reason he shoots him is becau ...more
May 08, 2012 rated it liked it
This is the anthology that I read in college that has the story about the newlyweds and the neighbor and the birds! (The Quail by Rolf Yngve). I'm so freaking glad I remembered this, it was driving me insane.
Michelle Dodd (Creaney)
Tiresome. I have a feeling that if I studied this for A level I would have loved it. I did not love it, far from it. I barely understood most of the stories. I think they probably need time to digest, discuss and mull over if you can be arsed. I really couldn't be arsed. However, if I was 18 again and took that time I would perhaps find them profund and interesting. I've proably failed at life.
A.J. Howells
This collection is worth a look if only for the fact that it’s the first collection of “Flash Fiction” released to the public, before the term “Flash Fiction” came to describe these ultra short stories (all are between 500 and 1,500 words). In terms of the 70 stories, there are a lot of hits and a lot of misses, but that iss to be expected in a genre attempting to get its wings. Some really good ones are:

• “Even Greenland” by Barry Hannah
• “Reunion” by John Cheever
• “Sunday in the Park” by Bel K
Jan 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent! A fun end of the year read when I'm hopelessly scatter-brained anyway. Small snorts of literary genius. Little bursts of clear white light burning through the fog. Everyone should keep one of these on their shitter.
Jul 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: oldfavorites
I wrote a paper on this when I was in high school. After that I tried writing Sudden Fiction of my own. I'm still writing it.
Jan 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this is an excellent book. teaching from it in the spring. ideal for our a.d.d. world. there's a brilliant updike story in here and normally i hate updike. and it's NOT "a&p"
Peter Colclasure
Aug 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
The vast majority of these stories were bland, poorly written, and unmemorable. There were a few hidden gems however.
Jean Carlton
7o stories in little over 200 pages tell you that they are indeed "short shorts," some just one page. Word count around 1500 pages maximum, reliant on situation and/or tone and the importance of a turn or twist at the end. I found some very interesting/fun/thought-provoking but many left me perplexed (the goal I guess) I conclude that they must be both fun and difficult to write and I am determined to experiment with the form myself.
I especially liked the Afterwords section which includes discus
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
Another one I read for a university creative writing course. I love the potential of the form, but with the exception of a few gems, most of the selections in this anthology really did not do it for me, nor did I find much value in bits about the form at the end of the book. I couldn't recommend this one.
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
There are so few great stories in this collection; it's difficult to recommend. Of those I enjoyed should be of no surprise: Cheever, Updike, Williams, Bradbury, Hemingway. Unfortunately, five out of forty just ain't good enough, regardless of their length.
Vincent Hernot
Apr 28, 2020 rated it liked it
some good stuff in there.
A new genre (?) for me. I love short stories, but this is so different. It's an artform altogether different from anything I've experienced. Loved it.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Apr 25, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Those Interested in Writing, The short story, and Literary Fiction
The rating is a compromise. The result of my conflicting sense that this is a landmark book that everyone interested in contemporary literature and professional writing should own--and well, the fact that I liked such a small percentage of these stories even a little.

On the must-read/own side, at the time this collection was put together (1986) the literary world saw an explosion of short-short fiction. As noted in the introduction, the great majority of these stories had been published within
Roman Peregrino
Jul 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Never quite realized how page turning these kind of stories could be! Highly recommend.
Spike Gomes
Feb 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
The collection edited by a creative writing professor of mine in college. I picked up the book back around then, but never got around to reading it until now, over 10 years later.

Honestly, I didn't like most of the stories in this collection, as they highlighted just about everything I hate about modern American literature. The high stylistics, devoid of real content. The obfuscate prose that pretends towards the profound. Completely unbelievable depictions of characters and situations that come
I don't know that there's much to say about the story collection, other than it's very complete. There are several classics, by big-name authors: Updike, Carver ('Popular Mechanics' is one of my old faves), Hemingway. Pretty much something for everyone, and you may well find something that you wouldn't normally look for.

Ray Bradbury's "I See You Never" is fairly traditional short story-like, and one of my favorites in this collection, but "A Questionnaire for Rudolph Gordon", which cleverly play
Oct 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I found gems in this collection, like Stuart Dybek's "Sunday at the Zoo," which takes barely a page to accomplish craziness, desperation, and hilarity.

Raymond Carver's "Popular Mechanics" flares up and chars the imagination in little more than a page and a half.

In the Afterwords sections, I also found several insights into the short-short story from Dybek, Tobias Wolff, Joyce Carol Oates, Paul Theroux, Russell Banks, Mark Strand, and several others.

For example, in one of the Afterwords, Joe Dav
Apr 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
As with any anthology, there will be some sections that fall flat, while others astound. Sudden Fiction is more astounding than flat, and there are quite a few reasons why you should consider reading this collection:

The stories are short-short -- about 1 to 4 pages. You can breeze through ten before bed and feel quite accomplished (though you may want to take a break and digest some of the true zingers in this book).

The Afterwords section has blurbs from the authors of the stories trying to defi
May 25, 2008 rated it it was ok
I just finished reading a collection of short stories in a book called sudden fiction by a range wide of authors. Such as by Langston Hughes, Robert Kelly, Tobias Wolf and more are included in this book.
I like the wide range of short stories in this book and I enjoyed reading each story because it leaves you with a different message but within that message it is the same lesson that each story tells you. I liked the style of writing too because it kept me into the book because it made me feel li
Mar 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
It's amazing how memorable many of these stories are.

They are short-shorts, or "microfiction", depending on your preferred terminology. I prefer short-short.

Some are so brief they are almost prose poems, while others are as long as 2 pages.

Most capture not just an aura of something or someone, but a sense of motion, they reveal just what you'd remember from a more lengthy rendering, but without all the extra words.

They're great for before bed after a long day if you're like me and have trouble s
Jun 24, 2008 rated it liked it
The main thing this collection has going for it is its format: each story is no longer than five pages, and most are in the two to three range. It's great for when you don't have a lot of time to read or want to check out new authors without making a huge commitment. You're also more likely to finish the stories, because there's really no point in stopping halfway through. That said, I wasn't too impressed with many of the stories in this anthology. Many of them didn't seem like stories at all: ...more
Sep 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. Some stories were amazing, some fell flat, but overall the collection was solid. I liked being able to completely read something in five minutes, and then mulling it over for ten.

Favorites: Even Greenland, The Song on Royal Street, Say Yes, The Moving, Pygmalian, The Bridge, A Very Short Story (proof that I can like Hemingway!), Reading the Paper, Rosary, The Sock, Speed of Light, Moving Pictures, Any Minute Mom Should Come Blasting Through the Door, The Quail, and No One's a Mystery.
Dec 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
I've always been a bit torn on micro-fiction and my tastes on that reflect my enjoyment of these stories. I still want what I feel is a story. If I don't feel I get that then I don't enjoy the piece very much. Some of these I liked, but some I didn't care for so much. I really didn't care for the afterward section. It was a pretty hefty portion of the book just to be a random, unorganized discussion of people's thoughts on the form. That I cared for even less than the stories I didn't like as we ...more
Sep 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Okay, I finally finished the few remaining short-shorts that I had not read. My top 2 favorites: Thank you, M'am and The Vertical Fields (quite visceral). Others I thoroughly enjoyed: Can-Can, A Walled Garden, Sitting, The Hatchet Man In the Lighthouse, The Personal Touch, Tickits, The Neighbor, Reading the Paper (I laughed out loud at this one.), Moving Pictures, The Signing, The Quail, and Sleepy Time Gal. **(side note: I'm not sure what is more therapeutic: reading or hiking!). Since I am cu ...more
Phoebe Kate Foster
Apr 27, 2008 rated it it was ok
A surprisingly disappointing book. Except the stories by John Cheever, Bel Kaufman, Langston Hughes, Grace Paley and a couple others, the works selected were singularly lackluster and unmemorable. The main flaw of most stories was that they were written in the style of longer fiction, which seemed clunky and ill-suited for the genre. The book's copyright is 1986, which leads me to believe that flashfiction, as an art form, has evolved considerably in the last 20 years.
Aug 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
These are perfect stories for breastfeeding--they're readable in 2-7 minutes. And the ends are usually a treat. And when they're not, they make you think about why they're not.

At the end, there is interesting soft lit-theory discussion of this form (the "short-short"). It's fun to read because it's written by creative writers rather than lit analysis folk. I liked seeing the diverse ways in which they approached the subject.
Oct 16, 2009 rated it liked it
I enjoy sudden fiction (aka flash fiction, shorts, short-shorts, blasters, etc.) but several people have expressed to me their strong dislike of the genre (I like to pretend they haven't actually read any of it :). This volume is the usual mix of less-than-stellar mixed with memorable stories that will stay with me from only 2 or 3 or 4 pages (Thank You M'am, Popular Mechanics, Dog Life--to name a few).
Oct 09, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Some of the individual stories in this book were delightful, but it was exhausting to read a new story every 2 or 3 pages. Just as I was settling down with my new characters, they were gone! I took me 2 years to read this - I had to stop every few stories to regroup and read something with some continuity.
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