May 23, 2015

May 23, 2015 Column

Spokesman Book Shelf Column, Flash Fiction

by Julie Bowers, Redmond Community Librarian

I hope you will never say, “I don’t have time to read.” If you do ever make such an inflammatory statement within earshot of readers be prepared for a trouncing. Try to maneuver the conversation to another topic before anyone can observe that you have plenty of time to watch Hoarders or cat videos.

Still, time is a finite commodity. There may be times when you are unable to read a long novel or biography, but no time crunch is so extreme as to require the abandonment of reading.

Extreme busy-ness is often accompanied by high levels of stress. Among the many benefits of reading, relaxation is one of the most striking. Research from Mindlab International at the University of Sussex found that of all the methods of relaxation tested, reading was the most effective. After only six minutes of reading, subjects physiologically showed lower levels of tension than those who took a walk, had a cup of tea, listened to music, or played video games. As the Telegraph reported at the time, Dr. David Lewis, who conducted the test, said, "Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation.”

Here are some books that will keep you reading with the smallest possible investment of time.

Some of our favorite internet sensations share their distinctive short-form observations on the state of humanity in book form. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh features dysfunctional vignettes from the author’s life, made moving and hilarious by purposefully amateurish drawings. Matthew Inman, better known as The Oatmeal, has three titles in the library’s graphic novel collection. The newest, Why Grizzly Bears Should Wear Underpants, is also available as a downloadable ebook. Even some internet cats have books in the library collection, including Grumpy Cat, the LOLcats, and Maru.

Sudden Fiction and Sudden Fiction (Continued) edited by Robert Shapard and James Thomas contain wonderful stories, each less than 2000 words, or about six minutes of reading. Stories in Sudden Flash Youth edited by Christine Perkins-Hazuka, Tom Hazuka, and Mark Budman are less than 1000 words.

Still too long? Check out Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer. According to editor Robert Swartwood hint fiction, by definition,” suggests a longer, more complex story.” They are thought-provoking, sometimes funny, but often viscerally upsetting. Though each takes only a few seconds to read, you may find it difficult to stop. Another collaboration of similarly succinct stories, The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories by HitREcord is just fun.

Don’t even have time for that? Six word memoirs are three second reads. Smith Magazine collected six word memoirs in book form, under the apt title Not Quite What I Was Planning. The book is available at your library. A follow up book, It All Changed in an Instant, is available to checkout or to download as an ebook. Just visit your library’s Digital Download page.
It’s a short step from reading these memoirs and stories to writing them. The Redmond Public Library has a bulletin board in the teen area where customers can post their originals. Or tweet your creations #DPL6words.

Here’s my six-word memoir: I always read, no matter what.

Julie Bowers
Redmond Community Librarian
Deschutes Public Library

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