Pittsburgh author tries to “reduce by way of the litter” with experimental (and really quick) tales
In a world where international news sometimes contains 280 characters at a time, does fiction have to be shorter?
“Fables of the Deconstruction” (CLASH Books), Damian Dressick’s debut story collection, comprises 64 stories on 169 pages. Slippery Rock Denizen is a proponent of Flash fiction, or the very short story. Some entries are as short as a paragraph or even a few sentences.
“I would say our lives are over-planned and our attention spans tend to be shortened and we are constantly bombarded with news,” said Dressick. “So I think that’s our psychological ecosystem, so to speak. And what I think lightning [fiction] mainly because it’s conveyed through these media, its bite size is enough that you don’t make those kind of large-scale time commitments for a story. “
Flash fiction is not new, of course. Dressick, who studied at the University of Pittsburgh in the 1990s and taught creative writing at Pitt and Clarion University, goes back to the vignettes that Ernest Hemingway included in his own debut collection “In Our Time”. Still, Dressick said, literary short stories were typically 5,000 words long prior to the advent of MTV; With the internet and social media, the average has dropped closer to 2,000 words, he said. Flash fiction got its own anthologies as early as the 1990s, and the genre became increasingly popular, especially in online magazines.
However, brevity alone is not the soul of Dressick’s art. In the tradition of experimentalists such as Donald Barthelme and Robert Coover, he explores new forms and sometimes surreal premises.
In Fables, stories take the form of parables, lists (“A User’s Guide to Bringing My Ex-Girlfriend to Orgasm”), Word document annotations (“Seven Against Tony”), a crowdfunding appeal to someone named ” Damian. to help ”live a greener lifestyle and even have a series of pie charts in which a man describes an unhappy first date with“ Laurel Wisenstein, Marketing Coordinator ”.
In “Jesus in 42” Jesus is a miner; in “Will Take Paypal” a man tries to exchange his friendship with a playwright for a “used boat in good condition”. “Another Night With Jim” is told (in the second person) from the point of view of a caretaker whose employee is a methamphetamine-dependent grizzly bear.
Some of the shortest pieces feel more like prose poems than narratives, although there is usually space to identify a narrative arc between the lines.
In our overstrained culture, Dressick said, all he’s looking for is ways to excite readers.
“I think it is the duty of everyone who works in the arts, be it a writer or a painter, to find a way to break the mess, to give someone something that might turn out to be a story or something that bewitched, sneaking up on him, “or intrigue at first,” he said.