Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Flash Fiction Histories

Add Mary Austin's collection of One -Smoke Stories to the history of flash fiction. Originally published in 1934 (then republished in 2003) the collection includes multicultural stories (from Native American, Spanish colonial, mestizo, and European people of the Southwest)-- folktales, animals stories, sayings, and other popular genres. Some of the "flashes" are just a couple of pages in length.

In her introduction, Austin says the variety of cultures in the Southwest share an approach to storytelling in the one-smoke story-- a type of story that's especially suited for the communication of experience. Her description of the story-telling ceremony is rich and interesting. Here's a snip of her description:

Each participant selects a corn husk from the heap and gathers a pinch of "native tabac" from a dark bowl as it "passes the ancient ceremonial road from east to north by west to south," and holding the dry roll delicately between the lips, each participant tries to "dispatch the salutatory puffs to the six... or the four... world quarters."

Each participant holds the "crisp short-lasting cylinder between thumb and fingertips, unlighted, one begins, always gravely, and holding on for the space of one smoke, tales, each one as deft, as finished in itself as a ceremonial cigarette."

Each story ends with what Austin calls "the fang of the experience." Between participants, "the ingoing and outgoing sense of the universe pulses and spirals with the ascending smoke."

Noreen Groover Lape provides an excellent Critical Introduction to Austin's collection.

See info on this collection here

If, like me, you're interested in a general history of flash fiction do check out my 8,000-word article on flash fiction in Books and Beyond: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of New American Writing (4 vols). (Edited by Kenneth Womack. (Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut/ London, 2008.) See info on the encyclopedia here

Or you can likely order it through your local libary.

Now, off to explore more older anthologies that include flash fiction types of writing.

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