Thursday, January 29, 2004

Bigge Thoughts on Small Print

I offer genuine and profuse apologies for not providing actual content and analysis as of late. This intellectual deficit is rectified with today’s entry about:

Off Cut Press, the creation of Toronto’s Josh Thorpe. Very Short Stories , the first book from Off Cut, was launched in December. It takes minimalism past flash fiction and into zap prose territory, with stories containing 100 characters or less. Thus, Dave Dyment offers:

As a child, I painted the sky a thin strip of blue across the top of the page. Today, when I point at the sky, I point up.

And Maggie Helwig gives us:

Walking through miles of suburban parking lots in the freezing rain, feeling like a movie of grief.

In May of last year, Russell Smith wrote about, a website offering tiny text and video content for WAP cell phones. Visit their site and you’ll see dozens of mini stories (50 to 150 words), micro stories (less than 50 words) and short micro stories (150 characters or less).

Some might argue that the-phone-book and Very Short Stories heralds the ultimate erosion of our diminished attention spans, as tolerance for narrative arcs longer than a bendy straw evaporates. But as Russell Smith argues, "The fixed form -- 150 words -- is not unlike any literary fixed form, such as the sonnet or the villanelle; its very limits create inspiration and experimentation."

For once I agree with Russell. Besides, the book is a steal at $5. Best of all:

Off Cut Press prints on paper that would be otherwise wasted; we print on the off-cuts of commercial jobs. This practice makes publishing economically and environmentally sustainable. It also makes our books small.

Economic restrictions do not always create roadblocks in generating important and valuable cultural eruptions. Can’t afford to publish a standard size book? Find a way around the problem. And if you’re really nimble, your solution will be so ingenious you create a new category of literature. Not every innovation should be dictated by lack of funds – over the long term, chronic underfunding can malnourish and discourage. But the occasional spate of desperation-driven creativity is a wonderful thing.