The shortest short short story ever

There is a genre of fiction aptly named short short story. Normally the length could only be a page or two. For some writers they deliberately restrict the compositions to an exact number of word count. In a collection of stories by Dan Rhodes, Anthropologist, he wrote each story out using exactly 100 words, not less not more.

Last year Guardian paper in the UK commissioned the American Dave Eggers, considered one of the best practitioners of the short story genre, to write short short stories for its weekly Guardian Weekend Magazine. The editor needed him to write no more than 400 words per piece. Recently this year Hamish Hamilton of UK and his own publishing house McSweeneys in the US brought out a collection of these shorts,not all though, together with other longer pieces which appeared in magazines like the New Yorker.

There is one particular story in the collection, which I actually read in just a few seconds. You must think I’m a very good speed reader. Actually, reading it didn’t take me much effort: I turned to the page of that story – 201 - read the very long title There are Some Things He should Keep to Himself. Then I turned the page, read it, then turned another – 5 pages in all – and finished the story very, very quickly. I accomplished this no-effort feat easily because of the exactly number of words Eggers wrote for it – 9. The rest of the 4 pages had, between the story title and the page number on each page, not a single word – blank.

Is this taking the short short story to extremes? Is this art?


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