Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine
By Diane Williams
‘Flash fiction’ can mean anything from a few clipped sentences to a few short paragraphs to a few brief pages, with narrative as the clearest literary line separating it from prose poetry. Flash fiction means there is still a story, no matter how short and sharp the arc may be. It could be the span of a life jammed into the tight jar of a paragraph, or the climax sliced from a larger backstory and spread out on its own, or a sprinkling of scenes. But the reader will still get some open and closure, implied or otherwise. The author will still work with imagery and rhetoric to suggest actions, ideas and consequences beyond the air-tight strictures.
The flash fiction of Diane Williams in Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine showcases all of these traits. But her stories somehow manage the weightier task of also being character-driven.
Many of these characters remain nameless, as if caught in tableau. Sometimes, Williams will peg an identity to them, but more for tone and colour than symbolism. Almost all are at a sudden point where they face a marked change in their lives. Some adapt as quickly as the word-count ends while others seem set to struggle far beyond the time it will take for the page to yellow. The reader may not know much about them, but will witness the import of their key moments and situations. This is flash fiction as the drama of epiphany.
“Specialist” presents the ultra-condensed ‘life-flashing-before-the-eyes’ of a very self-wrapped consciousness condemned to a fresh hell of external-awareness. “The Poet” evokes a surreal tragedy in two packed paragraphs. “Perform Small Tasks” is a mini-masterpiece of obfuscation, where drama is hidden behind a mind fussed with daily minutiae. “Girl With a Pencil” is a creation myth sketched with short strokes as the main character’s dark self-prophecy is shaped by a stark maternal presence.
Behind numerous facades (of forced passion, rigid consciousness, contrived fashion) everything is, of course, not fine. The thread that joins the stories is, in fact, threads coming unwound: relationships ending (or never quite weaving together), lives snipped short with unanswered questions and unresolved issues. The false declaration of the title, that sounds like a petulant child giving in with reluctant pout, melds with the overall, overwhelming effect of the relentless narratives. The substantial amount of character and drama that Williams packs into the book can overwhelm the reader, as the number of small tragedies add up to the emotional weight of an epic.
But, while brief, remain profound snapshots of life where things can change in a flash.
Snap to it.