On ‘Short Circuits: Aphorisms, Fragments, & Literary Anomalies’

An anthology of very-short pieces in underappreciated anomalous forms that can be read quickly or savored slowly.

James Lough and Alex Stein, editors
Language & Linguistics | Poetry | 384 Pages | 6” x 9” | Reviewed: Paperback
978–1943156375 | First Edition | $17.95
Schaffner Press | Tucson | BUY HERE

Short Circuits is an edited collection of short writing that often struggles to find a home elsewhere: aphorisms, haiku, microfiction, mini-essays, micro-poems, sequences, jokes, and visual poetry. In the introduction, co-editor James Lough explains the merit of writing short, and perceptibly incomplete, pieces:

“Literary works this short tend to deliver on a single, unified effect. Unlike longer works — short stories, long poems, novels, movie scripts — which carry a reader through multiple moods, ideas and perspectives, a very short work creates one intense sensation: one sharp feeling, one startling thought, one idol smashed, one prejudice uprooted and displayed for examination.”
(p. 6).

Showcasing 64 authors of varying literary technique, each section of Short Circuits begins with a short Q&A between the editors and the featured author. The responses provided by the authors help to give context for their work, as well as their unique ideas regarding writing in fragments.

In one such introduction, Lance Larsen provides a helpful distinction between short-verse poetry and aphorisms:

“Poems have secret zippers; aphorisms snap up the front. […] Poems sashay into a room then disappear around the corner, all perfume; aphorisms clump through the front door and stand in the hall, big handed and wise, ready to declaim.”
(p. 299).

There is a significant amount of white space separating each fragment or aphorism to give the reader time to digest and consider the depth of ideas packed into such small spaces.

Some of the aphorisms are deeply thoughtful and looming, such as those written by Charles Simic:

“There are two options for any small town dweller during dark months of the year: to die of boredom or become a philosopher.”
(p. 58).

At times, it appears the aphorisms are written for the writers themselves or for other authors to consider (or perhaps reconsider) their writing lives, such as those by Yahia Labididi:

“There are many ways to donate blood, writing is one.”
(p. 153).

This anthology is the kind of book that you can read quickly, as the collected works by each author are made up of fragments and micro-prose, or savor slowly and linger with each piece. With each new author’s take on fragmented writing, you’ll come to appreciate the controlled spontaneity and uncanny wisdom of this underappreciated anomalous form.

MELISSA GRUNOW is a Staff Book Reviewer for The Coil. She is the author of Realizing River City (Tumbleweed Books, 2016), which won Second Place-Nonfiction in the 2016 Independent Author Network Book of the Year Awards, and her collection of essays, I Don’t Belong Here, is forthcoming from New Meridian Arts Press in fall 2018. Her work has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, River Teeth, The Nervous Breakdown, New Plains Review, and Blue Lyra Review, among many others. Her essays have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and listed in the Best American Essays 2016 notables. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction with distinction from National University. Find her at melissagrunow.com.