Nik Perring – Not So Perfect

‘Not so Perfect’ is a collection of 22 short short fictions presented in a beautifully small square volume. While the package and the stories are small in size, the same cannot be said of the content, each of the 22 stories packing in more character, charm and emotion than many authors manage in much longer works.

Absence is a key theme in many of the stories (Sobs, Say My Name, The Angel In The Car Park, Number 14 most notably) with characters yearning for some sort of connection (Watching/Listening, Bare and Naked in Siberia, My Heart’s in a Box, The Mechanical Woman) but these are not despairing tales of woe. Each story is garlanded with striking imagery and precise and often beautiful prose, creating something to be treasured in amongst the heartache, whether it’s the impermanent simplicity of a snow angel or the pure emotion that would drive someone to plaster a house in post-it notes.

The linking feature of all the stories for me has to be the heart each one displays. ‘Not So Perfect’ is full of memorable characters and revelatory moments that reach out beyond the bounds of the page, demanding the reader’s emotional attention. As I read my way through the collection a new favourite story would unfold before me, a new favourite moment, and now, having finished, selecting even a handful of favourites is a challenge, so much easier just to recommend you read them all.

‘Not So Perfect’ is a fantastic example of the power of flash fiction to provide a revelatory moment that resonates far longer than the story itself takes to read. Reading these stories is like getting punched in the heart over and over again. In a good way, a way that leaves you treasuring the bruises you feel as you empathise with their many charming characters and narrators.

I urge anyone reading this with an interest in reading or writing flash fiction, short shorts or whatever you want to call these kind of brief yet lasting tales, to pick up a copy of this little book with a big heart; my copy has already been snagged by my good lady wife.

Miranda July – No One Belongs Here More Than You

This is the first story collection of the challenge that I have failed to finish. After a strong start and a few great stories I found the larger portion of these stories failed to connect with me as a reader. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great stories in here like ‘The Shared Patio,’ ‘The Swim Team,’ and ‘The Boy From Lam Kien,’ but something about many of the others lead me to skip about a bit if the opening didn’t grab me. Eventually I simply stopped reading.

There’s no doubt that Miranda July writes beautifully at times but something about the collection just doesn’t hang together for me. The weaker stories either seemed too much like generic American MFA graduate writing or to be trying a little too hard to be Amy Hempel. That said, I will try Miranda July’s next collection as a fair few of the stories were truly great.