Welcome to the first anthology to identify and celebrate a new nonfiction form: the Short!
Even readers skeptical of short-attention-span publishing will find these short-short (fewer than 2000 words) essays addictive. They're like a plate of Cheese Doodles at a party: not every one is crisp and perfect, but many are, and so the reader keeps going, waiting for the next flash of brilliance. The short-short essay form seems to inspire people to write about nature. Though some are flaccid, the best, such as Kathleen Norris's paean to rain and Donald Hall's wry notes about the joy we take in suffering bad weather, connect natural events to humanity. Short memoirs are poignant, and the form cuts away any sentimentality. In three paragraphs, Stuart Dybek recalls the summer nights when drivers would occasionally pass through his neighborhood with their headlights off, and Henry Louis Gates Jr. gives his family's reasoning about why white people are poor cooks. Within such a short form, the spaces between things become paramountand in the best cases make exposition unnecessary. Judson Mitcham tells of feeding his mother in the hospital, then spotting a mass of starlings on his way home. In recalling the 50 pounds of moose meat her father gave her when she departed for college in the '60s, Brenda Peterson easily explains the food chain and her place in it. The editors contribute a cogent introduction on this innovative form, and Bernard Cooper writes in his preface about how small events become powerful, then demonstrates just that principle with a concluding meditation on sighing that is both sad and funny. (July)