When I was first exposed to “flash fiction” (read: short stories outside of the New Yorker), it was, like many, through fantastic literary sites (heads up 3:AM Magazine, Red Lightbulbs, and Necessary Fiction, among others). An entire story before I finish my first cup of coffee? Sold.
Color me surprised to discover the simmering disagreement in the literary world over whether flash fiction is worthwhile. Fiction is about telling a good story—and that can be done in 400 pages or 400 words. And that's what Lindsay Hunter does in Don’t Kiss Me, a collection of 26 short, unrelated pieces previously published elsewhere.
Hunter’s flash pieces demonstrate the beauty of what short stories can offer that—dare I say it—longer narratives generally do not. The length strips away the necessity for a backstory, for closure, frequently even for a name for the protagonist. The story becomes about a character, an idea, or a human experience without any distractions. This works exceptionally well in several of Hunter's stories in particular, such as "Like", a story about high school girls feeling power and control in the way they make themselves a vessel for boys to fill. "Like" ends with the following, question-inducing line:
But, like, it’s us, we lie on our backs to watch the sky pearl to star, we are skin to bite we are hair to flick we are swish we have the power, it’s us, we say what we want we say Come and we say Here and we say Burn and we say Like.
Through her flash fiction, Hunter also provides importance and a voice to characters rarely considered important or intellectual: teengers, a mom doing dishes, an overweight middle schooler, or a girl dumbing herself down for her boyfriend who makes the rich remark, Easy to let someone thing they know you, long as you become who they think you are. Although I like to think of myself as an open-minded reader, I might not commit to reading a full novel about some of Hunter's self-loathing or cringe-inducing characters. But I will commit ten minutes, and I am probably the better for it.
Hunter's flash fiction in Don’t Kiss Me is not a weak replacement for a novel. It adds to the conversation in its own right by being thoughtful yet enticing, thematic yet unromantic, and edgy, at times almost painfully so. The stories will leave you thinking for much longer than it takes to read them.
The novel may be my first love, but that doesn't mean there isn't room in my heart for a flash fiction quickie.