Two stories by Deb Olin Unferth and one by Dino Buzzati you ought to read

Husband by Debi Olin Unfeth

Breathless is my go-to word for the one-sentence story. I use it in rejection emails sometimes. This one didn’t quite feel like a match for us, but we loved the breathless pace. Breathless, breathless, breathless. It’s a lie, or rather an overstatement – I can breathe just fine, thank you very much. I breathe like a king!

But maybe it’s not such a lie (or rather an overstatement) with Deb Olin Unferth’s Husband, printed here in The Guardian, reprinted from Tin House, also appearing in her book Wait Till You See Me Dance. This isn’t even a full sentence, it’s an If clause. A long, beautiful, complete if clause with no result clause, so you finish the story still waiting for the penny to drop. If X is true, then Y. But we never discover Y. Y? This one you might finish and need to suck in some more air. Will she keep writing? Goddamn.

Likable by Deb Olin Unferth

Likable pops up in every Best Flash Fiction You Have to Read in Under A Minute or Less websicle you’ll ever lay eyes upon, with good reason. Published here at Muumuu House, reprinted from NOON, Issue 12. Opening line: “She could see she was becoming a thoroughly unlikable person.” It’s the kind of line that nowadays we call badass!!!

She describes her unlikableness. She worries over her unlikableness. She even, to a degree, embraces her unlikableness, and isn’t this the part we love, the part that deserves a punch in the air? Or is that just me, with my own unembraced unlikeable qualities showing? She explains why she’s unlikable, and it’s not her, it’s us, all of us. But then the end has her shoved in a hole in the ground, and nobody before or since will ever make you feel so strongly that being shoved in a hole in the ground is the highest badge of honour. No wonder this often-imitated, never-bested flash fiction won a Pushcart Prize.

The Falling Girl by Dino Buzzati

Deb Olin Unferth would like this, no doubt, no doubt. It’s a modern classic, and a delight. A young woman leaps from a very tall building, and talks to various people on the way down. Much is made of the way the story uses time, and much is made of the way the story describes society high and low, but I’ll leave you to discover that for yourself. Just read this section, and tell me it’s not the loveliest:

Flights of that kind (mostly by girls, in fact) were not rare in the skyscraper and they constituted an interesting diversion for the tenants; this was also the reason why the price of those apartments was very high.

The sun had not yet completely set and it did its best to illuminate Marta’s simple clothing. She wore a modest, inexpensive spring dress bought off the rack. Yet the lyrical light of the sunset exalted it somewhat, making it chic. From the millionaires’ balconies, gallant hands were stretched out toward her, offering flowers and cocktails. “Miss, would you like a drink? … Gentle butterfly, why not stop a minute with us?”

She laughed, hovering, happy (but meanwhile she was falling): “No, thanks, friends. I can’t. I’m in a hurry.”

“Where are you headed?” they asked her.

“Ah, don’t make me say,” Marta answered, waving her hands in a friendly good-bye.

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