This is a review of Little Fiction, written by Emma Koehn. 

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Apologies for adopting a 90s tween girls’ magazine level of enthusiasm, but the Little Fiction Big Truths website is COMPLETELY BABE’IN. Look at it. It’s probably rude to start by objectifying the design while ignoring the heartfelt prose. I’m going to do that anyway, because even if the layout isn’t to your tastes, it works pretty well for the work contained within. The site began as a home for Little Fiction (flash and short stories), and then started delivering Big Truths (memoir and essays). Thd creators bring new pieces into the world on the first Wednesday of each month, kind of like a hump day farmer’s market, but for punchy sentences.

One reason that you should stop by is that each piece can be read in a browser or as an epub. I associate e-readers with consuming pulp novels and any out of copyright classic, books that fly through the air and onto my tablet. I hadn’t given much thought to reading short fiction this way, but it works pretty neatly. The layout is clean, and while it is bit of a strange sensation to be done with an ebook file in about 10 minutes, you can load up a bunch of pieces to scroll through when time is tight.

The Little Fictions vary in length and form, with the longer pieces bringing uncomfortable characters and that nice introspection that makes you hate Alice Munro a bit because you know that you can never, ever be her. Rebecca Rosenblum’s ‘The Framer’ has some great lines about grief, arty people (read: a guy called Forrest), and the basics of woodwork. Her protagonist hits the road in search of a career in picture framing, a move that sees her quiet demeanour buffeted by self assured artists:

 

“It’s so naked, vulnerable.” The man edged closer. He was wearing a suit, but wasn’t yet thirty, she didn’t think, and had piercings in his eyebrow, nose, lower lip. His hair was spiked, except one spike that drooped onto his forehead, like Superman’s.

“I think it’s, yeah, interesting. Phallic.”

His silver-encircled left eyebrow shot up. Gretta had skipped ahead by several steps—she hadn’t done this in a while. He recovered. “Oh? What makes you say that?”

She grinned, let her teeth show. “Like you said, the vulnerability, the nakedness…”

 

In Refe Tuma’s ‘Trapped’, there’s a bit of a mouse problem in town, and it’s throwing a spanner in the works of marriages and single living alike. Read it if you would like to feel as though something is crawling on you for the next week. In a world where scuttling things are getting in the way, the daily routine of this character says it all, really. 

 

‘Set, dispose, clean, set. Repeat. It felt like infinity.’

 

The Big Truths are set, unconsciously or not, to the theme of lurve. The shorter pieces seem to work a bit better, with less space for repeated revelations. These are stories of the gaps between our mind’s lives and reality, between romance and exploitation, support and sacrifice. Lisa Mrock’s ‘First Men’ is dry and assured, talking intimacy with such knwing lines as:

 

He’d asked to kiss me almost three months before. He said I was pretty, an okay compliment. Anything can be called pretty—a mountain, a dog, a screwdriver.”

 

Jessica Hendry Nelson talks young friendships (‘Charlene’s parents have a water bed, which makes me think they must be very rich.’), and Devin Kelly’s ‘Love Innings’ takes heartbreak to a family baseball outing, with mixed emotional results for the protagonist.

Across fiction and memoir, the tendency is to go retrospective: look back at college days and high school parties, to pick apart families, traditions, and the formation of our very dispositions. If you like a good dose of this sort of reading, then Little Fiction/Big Truths will keep delivering you slices of it.

A note on the extras: some of the work has been mixed into short fiction podcasts, there’s a collection of author playlists to accompany their pieces, and you can buy Litograph products featuring the every word of some of their most popular short stories. These guys are like those triple threat musical theatre kids. Stay for the stories, as well as the sense that they know what they’re doing.

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E Koehn

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