5: Flashback

Nikhil ChopraTom talks with very short story writer Christine Gentry about flash fiction and an imagined memoir based in her father’s life.

The concentration and brevity of her stories is anything but an accommodation to the short attention span of the contemporary reader.  Instead, Gentry’s one-page pieces ask you to read closely, fill in gaps, and actively contribute to the meaning of the story.  Her longer project seeks to explore and articulate the untold stories of a reticent father.


Listen to Episode 5 Episode 5: Flashback.

Listen to Story from WordRiot Christine reads her story, “May 9, 1973” (recorded by Wordriot).

About Our Guest

Christine is now in her fifth year of teaching 10th and 11th grade English at a charter public high school in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. She has a Bachelor’s Degree from Baylor University and a Master’s in Teaching English from Harvard.

In what little spare time she has, she likes to write short short stories. Her stories have been published in Printer’s Devil Review and Word Riot. She lives in the Fenway with her English Bulldog daughter, Bonnie “The Beef” Gentry.

Music in This Episode

Intro: “The Remainder,” Rosehips from the album Rosehips.

Intermission: “Your Contemporaries,” The Lindsay from the album Dragged Out.

Outro: “Enough,” Rosehips from the album Rosehips.


The (Very) Short Story

Hemingway’s classic, “A Very Short Story.”

Mark Budman, publisher and editor of Vestal Review, discusses the term “flash fiction.”

Flashes on the Meridian: Dazzled by Flash Fiction, a guide to the very short story.


Flash Fiction Online provides fiction readers with accessible, interesting flash stories that have a plot, characterization, and, to the extent possible, setting.

Smoke Long Quarterly (SLQ) publishes flash fiction of up to 1,000 words.  Their ideal story is sincere and unique, standing up to rereading and lingering in the reader’s consciousness long after.

Vestal Review. A semi-annual print magazine with a Web presence, devoted to flash (or short-short) stories.

Books & Articles

Budman, Mark, and Tom Hazuka. 2007. You have time for this: contemporary American short-short stories. Portland, Or: Ooligan Press.

Moore, Dinty W. 2003. Sudden stories: the Mammoth book of miniscule fiction. DuBois, Penn: Mammoth Books.

Shapard, Robert, and James Thomas. 2007. New sudden fiction: short-short stories from America and beyond. New York: W.W. Norton.

Shapard, Robert, and James Thomas. 1996. Sudden fiction (continued): 60 new short-short stories. New York: Norton.

Shapard, Robert, and James Thomas. 1995. Sudden fiction: American short-short stories. Layton: Gibbs Smith.

Stern, Jerome. 1996. Micro fiction: an anthology of really short stories. New York: W.W. Norton.

Thomas, James, and Robert Shapard. 2006. Flash fiction forward: 80 very short stories. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Thomas, James, Denise Thomas, and Tom Hazuka. 1992. Flash fiction: very short stories. New York: Norton.


Rather than presuming that there is a single proper interpretation of a literary work, Reader Response Theory seeks to explain the diversity (and often divergence) of readers’ responses to literary texts.

The New Criticism, a type of formalist literary criticism that reached its height during the 1940s and 1950s, emphasizes close readings of literary texts and eschews biographical explanations. 

In their seminal essay, “The Intentional Fallacy,” new critics W.K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley specifially caution against looking to the author’s intention for the meaning of a literary work.

French poststructuralist critic Roland Barthes has his own take on the ways in which the same text can produce more than one meaning—often meanings other than those the author intended.  In the essay “From Work to Text,” Barthes offers a set of propositions for distinguishing what he calls “texts” from the more traditional ways of thinking about literature as “works”.



Hi Tom, Alana and Christine!
Wow, so many things to say. I really enjoyed this episode. About flash fiction: I was interested in how you disagreed with the idea that it's not about a short attention span, that flash requires MORE from a reader, rather than less. I liked how the piece you read about the man and the woman reached forward and backwards into the past and the future, but the narrative was all in the present (if that makes sense.) It really requires a lot from the reader to imagine both the past and the future.

I also liked the genre bending nature of your memoir / fiction. It says a lot about the nature of memory--all memoirs are the memories of memories, but your piece uses that as a strength, rather than trying to hide it with lots of interviewing. I wondered if you had read "We Didn't Come Here For This," by William Patrick, a memoir in poetry. I think you would enjoy it, for its genre-bending nature, and how he speaks in his parents' voice so much. Maybe I could give it to Tom next time I see him. :D

Okay, thanks for giving me something awesome to listen to while I did cross stitch on this rainy Sunday.
Cat Ennis Sears

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