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Dave Eggers, Sarah Manguso, Deb Olin Unferth

One Hundred and Forty Five Stories in a Small Box [McSweeney's]

September 17, 2007  |  10:44am
Dave Eggers, Sarah Manguso, Deb Olin Unferth

Eggers and Co. explore the economy of language

Does a story have to approach War and Peace in length to be significant? McSweeney’s new collection seeks to topple this exact sentiment. Comprised of three collections of extremely short fiction, its stories are often less than a page.

The constraint is both limiting and liberating. While the stories, of course, lack the scope of an epic, they aren’t tied down to exploring the world that exists between plot points. This allows the vignettes to focus instead on acts normally too small for more than a passing mention, from buying a new journal to failing at opening a drawer—occurrences that, while not necessarily profound, are a part of most people’s everyday lives.

Some of the stories here are funny, such as Eggers’ “How the Air Feels to the Birds,” and some are melancholy like Unferth’s “Another One,” but the writing is surprisingly consistent. Though there are few standout pieces, nearly everything included has a spark of heart and humanity. More than just a gimmick or formal exercise, One Hundred and Forty Five succeeds at showing how much depth can exist in the tiniest window of words.

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