Flash fiction is finding a home at last through the free waves of the Internet. Its deployment as a genre-long overlooked and passed over by traditional publishing houses and literary journals and magazines-is surprising its writers as much as its readers. Supposedly, our attention spans have been weakened by television and by the Internet itself, and many of us find ourselves unable to read long works of fiction-the novels of the past. According to this theory, a glitch in our collective brains suddenly attracts us to flash fiction’s brevity and wit. Our interest in it is evolutionary and environmental. There is ongoing debate-for some people interested in definition, it is more like a meditation-about the differences between flash fiction and prose poetry. As with poetry, in flash fiction, it becomes less important to know, at the outset, whether a given story is true (“It happened,” as Mary Karr would have it) or the author invented it (“lied”).
Many of the 88 stories that make up Meg Pokrass’s debut collection of stories, Damn Sure Right (Press 53, 2011, 174 pages) appeared in journals on the Internet before their collection as a paperback. I had read many of them there, as each appeared, one at a time, one surprising turn of phrase at a time, turning each over as I held it like a dime or shiny nickel. I had considered their place in literary time, their linguistically joyful yet thematically sorrowful insistence on original response. I had read them vertically, scrolling down a page, slowly, incrementally, my hand on a mouse, as if their power were shared between writer and reader, as if in reading, I had had something to do with their creation, if reception is needed for artistic completion.
I have read in interviews on the Internet that Pokrass trained in acting and practiced in poetry before discovering her unique vision, voice, and form in flash fiction a few years ago. Perhaps no other writer of flash fiction has found her métier as certainly as Pokrass has. Each story and its inner units-inflection, dialogue, image, word choice, tone-deliver what her readers by now have come to expect from her: a whipping, sad humor that challenges not only our understanding of what “fiction” is meant to achieve in a compact space, but of how we feel, now, in this year past the millennium, to be living in America, to be writers on the Internet, to be connected to one another as purveyors of writing, small packages of words nowhere created more succinctly and brilliantly than in Pokrass’s neat and quirky parables.
This is how many words I need to write to fill out the review to equal 500 words for publication. What words would I add at this moment? Damn Sure Right.