Friday, December 17, 2010


This is good information to keep from putting flash fiction into a too- short procrustean bed by countering the writing advice that's always pushing writers to "trim the fat." There's room for all sorts of writing styles in flash fiction.

I like William Goyen's work in part because of his style and his "fat"sentences. And as one who's recently read one too many articles on"trimming the fat" from our work I like to haul out Goyen's thoughts on writing-- to remember to keep "writing rules" in perspective, to remember that there's still plenty of room for more than bare bones, skinny, trimmed-down stories.

A blurb on the back of Goyen's book of short stories, Had I A Hundred Mouths, some of which are flash fiction length, says: [His] "voice was a bard's voice, singing dark narratives in lines rich and rhythmic enough to transform into ballads.... I would place "Had I A Hundred Mouths" [a story in the collection of the same name] and "In the Icebound Hothouse"among the great short stories of the century." (Vance Bourjaily, The NewYork Times Book Review.)

One more blurb: "Like the East Texas wood where so much of the action occurs, there is a lushness, almost a novel-like quality to even the briefest tale ... A short story by William Goyen is like one by no other writer." (Edward J. Osowski, Houston Post)

When asked about writing influences he felt he had to reject or throw off, he had this to say (from an interview in the same collection):"Oh sure. I had to work through them. Because a lot of them are standing in the way. We have to go through their legs or get around them or really just kind of *have* them, in order to be free of them, or let them have us. Thomas Wolfe. Singing people. Whitman. Early Saroyan. I had to find out whether I could do it or not, and since I didn't have anything to replace it with yet--I tell students this: since you don't have anything to offer yet, then *take* what they have to offer, and spend it. If somebody wants you to make love to them that badly, then go ahead and do it. Just go ahead and do it, get out, get through it! Never James-- though he astonished me. The same as Proust: those were abundances, flowerings. They confirmed me."

And then Goyen talks about American writing (and his own)...."The American writing around me seemed to all just hang at... just at whatever tide there was -- there was Hemingway, whom I couldn't abide. Fitzgerald, totally foreign to me. I didn't know about that world, the swell life. Or even Fitzgerald's own transformations. Hemingway seemed to me to be like the brutes that I knew that I wanted to escape from, in Texas. That physical bravado, that leanness of style, that was anathema to me. Why would I not use three adjectives? Why not? I was a rhapsodist, why would I cut down on my adjectives? What was Hemingway trying to tell me, what was he hiding?"

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