“Book Review: Wild Life”
Reviewed by Joe Walters
A sharp and vivid flash fiction collection, spearheaded by characters so human you’ll feel like you’re peering through curtains.
Kathy Fish is a master of the super-short story. In her latest flash fiction collection Wild Life: Collected Works from 2003 -2018, she packs a punch with her prose, leaving readers to discover the subtle and unsubtle nuances of everyday lives, of humans trying to make it in the wild.
Whether it’s a story about a gritty family managing to function or about a young woman growing horns, Wild Life illustrates just how meaningful very short fiction can be. We’ve got surface-level stories here, plots and character arcs and all of the wonderful things that keep us engaged as readers, but beneath the surface, these actions and evocative scenes carry weight, showing us the best, worst, and strongest in human nature. Each story is precise yet detailed, wasting no time in telling a tale that’ll keep you looking inward.
“I dreamt of rulers and coffins dropping from the sky. Rulers, as in kings, emperors, dictators. Rulers in Persian dress with arms akimbo and startled faces.”
This collection is rife with surprising, concrete imagery. Fish manages to create a character with “little men inside her head, wielding hammers” to help us not only recognize pain but to see it happening.Each image flows naturally across the page in her prose style, giving short, vivid breaks in the reading experience before the ending comes crashing down.
In flash fiction, authors are asked to create consistent worlds, entertaining stories, and unique characters and endings that make us feel full all in less than 1,000 words. For Fish, most of the time that takes less than 500.
“We should be friends forever and hold each other’s hands and tell each other when we have something stuck between our teeth and trade anecdotes and say oh you told me this before but I love hearing you tell it, so tell it to me again.”
You never know what you’re going to get out of a Kathy Fish ending. A gut-punch maybe. A quiet satisfaction. Regardless, you’re going to enjoy the way the ends of these stories work, prompting you to stare into the blank space at the bottom of the page to imagine how the characters will continue on—and if they’ll be better off where they’re going. Thanks to this contemplative approach, 109 pages feels like just right length for the 34 stories in this collection.
For readers with little pockets of time, I emphatically recommend Kathy Fish’s Wild Life. Plop this book down in an easy-to-reach place and pick it up at your leisure. You’ll discover something special on nearly every page. Poetry lovers will adore the language, the playful prose, the melodic rhythm that you can’t always find in fiction. So give it a shot. You’ll be glad you did.
Publisher: Matter Press
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