DH: Hint Fiction is a blade of grass, curved, bending in the wind, the root solid in soil, its tip suggestive of the vaguer atmosphere it points to. It’s appeal: part literary Sudoku game, part concentrated narrative pleasure, dense with richness, like the brandy I’m drinking, but part metaphysical, the faith that there’s something out there, the story that you can imagine, beyond the max 25 words that comprises a hint fiction, a hint of fiction.
I found the title headings pointless and distracting. A case of over-contextualizing. After a while, I just started to ignore them. I focused on the stories and the names of the writers. I loved the writer’s names, like I love an unopened book that I’d like to figure out how to crack. As for the topical section headings like: “Life & Death” it was like knocking down a bug. I know you can do it but why bother? And man, “everything” is about life and death so you don’t have to say so.
But now to those names. I picked ten favorites. There’s one more besides that, which I’ll mention at the end, because I can’t say that name without thinking it means “friend”. The ten are: Hannah Craig, Bob Thurber, Jake Thomas, Mercedes M. Yardley, Joyce Carol Oates, Nick Arvin, Min Jin Lee, Brendan O’Brien, Marcus Sakey, David Joseph. Anything I quote is with permission of the publisher.
Hannah Craig: The opening: “What’s he doing out there?” Is followed by a description of the situation…which is vivid and concrete. Then we get: I muttered, “I have no idea.” “Muttered’ is great…suggestive. And HC was right to make the finish first person, which is more involving than saying, for example, “Tom muttered” or worse, “Tom said”.
Bob Thurber and Marcus Sakey: Their language is gorgeous, it swept me away even in small doses. But the story also kept moving. I’d read 300 pages by either of these guys.
Jake Thomas: The characters get out of the house. A woman is given a choice of beers. But you can guess that this couple have some history. Here’s the whole thing:
He took her out for a picnic to discuss what they wanted to do about it. You want Bud Light or O’Doul’s? he asked her.
The beers have names but not the people. “He asked her” is perfect because it’s so mundane, like the beer question. It highlights that something is about to happen.
Mercedes M. Yardley: A woman is alone watching the tube. I wanted to know more about her. I was a voyeur and enjoying it. That’s all MMY’s doing. Also funny.
Joyce Carol Oates: I couldn’t let go of it.
Nick Arvin: Father and son in the kitchen. Son is first person narrator but it’s dad who tells a knock knock joke. It’s funny. Why does he tell it? Two concrete elements, dad in shirtsleeves and that kitchen mean: family business, intimate. What that business is, is over the edge of the page.
Min Jin Lee: Five sentences double-spaced. Three two-word lines, one a question, between Helene and a man, not named, about his wife. Then Helene takes off her glasses. Perfect.
Brendan O’Brien: 25 words. They are all bunched up like a ball on the page. That is appropriate: someone is waiting for Ben to finish, to hurry up. I’m assuming that this is a couple about to go out and that the character waiting is a woman. But there is no evidence of this in the hint fiction. As the reader, I am filling in blanks as I read, almost without awareness of doing so. But it’s BO who has determined what I need to fill in. Not to fill in: that Ben has a father, (just like him?) and that the person waiting for Ben is grinding molars. They think this is a bad habit and hint at others…maybe involving Ben? 25 words.
David Joseph: One first person sentence that tells you who a man is…that’s what I thought…although the text doesn’t rule out a woman talking about another woman.
That sentence tells you this character’s past, including regrets? You wonder if they will ever be any different. Probably not. But why am I saying that? DJ hasn’t said it. DJ has said very little. But he has said enough. DJ is the only writer that I noticed whose name appears twice in the collection. But you’ll know which hint fiction I mean.
If I tried again another day, this list might evolve. I will try another day. And you need to pick your own favorites. Hint Fiction is a beautiful map of literature that I want you to explore.
The best hint fictions, like Jason Rice’s, our own JR, which is included in this volume and is very easily one of the best in the book, don’t preach, don’t inspire and aren’t enlightening.
They make the reader walk the plank, then push them off it.
Hint Fiction is on-sale 11/1/2010. Check back in later this week and next for Hint Fiction authors’ contributions to the When We Fell In Love series
- What Are You Reading, Joyce Carol Oates? (bookcritics.org)
- Sentimental Journeys (americanfiction.wordpress.com)
- David Mitchell Speculates on Speculative Fiction Trilogy (mediabistro.com)
- Fiction books | The novel still makes an impact – Kansas City Star (news.google.com)