THEY COULD NO LONGER CONTAIN THEMSELVES
Elizabeth J. Colen, John Jodzio, Tim Jones-Yelvington, Sean Lovelace, and Mary Miller. Rose Metal Press, $15.95 paperback (248p) ISBN: 978-0-9846166-1-9
This collection of five flash chapbooks from five different authors
(the four finalists from the fourth short short chapbook contest and the
winner from the third) is as inspiring as it is moving, sad, funny,
challenging. It’s basically everything you’d ever want from the written
word, and it comes in such a damn tight package that, well, it’s
To me, being good at brevity in literature is like being good at
reducing fractions in math. At least to a point. I don’t want that to
come off as being too reductive (ha ha) because I know, from a literary
standpoint, it takes more than just practice and patience to excel at
short fiction; it takes natural talent as well, and there’s an abundance
of talent throughout this book.
However, I don’t want to just sit here and heap on the praise
(although it’ll be tricky to do otherwise) so what I’ll do is give
you—in the spirit of brevity—some short thoughts about each of the
authors along with some short snippets from their respective work.
We’ll begin at the beginning with John Jodzio’s collection Do Not Touch Me Not Now Not Ever.
There’s a great playfulness in these stories, lots of twists, lots of
random and weird and bizarre. Lots of great opening hooks, too. Jodzio,
like all of the writers in this collection, is a master with the fishing
pole. One or two lines in and the hook is set deep in the flesh of our
cheek, my friends. We’re let go when they’re good and ready to let us
go, and that’s okay because the ride is absolutely thrilling.
From Jodzio’s Octane:
“I’m testing pump octane at a Shell Station on St. Cloud when a
warlock casts a spell over me. He’s got a black goatee and his ponytail
is pulled back into a green scrunchie. He comes out of the station
munching on a fruit pie and then he gives me a smile and a little nod.
That’s all it takes. I suddenly feel compelled to follow him wherever he
Mary Miller’s collection Paper And Tassels comes next, and in my notebook I see the words beautiful, hard, and real,
and these three words are still ringing true to me. Miller’s stories
have a great bite to them, they’re filled with these painful little
truths that are simply shocking in their openness. They sit right on the
page, daring you to look at them. Her writing is, in my mind,
From Miller’s Misled:
“This boy is with you now. He stands behind you with a pair of
scissors and a comb because the world you live in has a high turnover
rate, like the chain restaurant along the highway where you wait tables
for extra money. People just stop showing up. New people are hired on
Elizabeth J. Colen’s collection Dear Mother Monster, Dear Daughter Mistake
draws out the sometimes pain of nostalgia and the often dangerous
curiosity of precocious children. The collection itself is bisected,
giving us equal parts adult mourning and coming-of-age crushes. It’s
powerful, funny, and sad.
From Colen’s Bruising:
“Some people burn their lover’s letters when their hearts get broken.
Or burn them years later when they’ve finally gotten over everything. I
drown mine. Put them in the tub with me once the water has lost its
heat, but before it grows too cold. As my fingers wilt and the bath
bubbles level out into nothing but honey-scented film that greases the
tub walls, I put my book or magazine down and pick up a letter I want to
Evan’s House And The Other Boys Who Live There by Tim
Jones-Yelvington focuses on a young man’s stress in the face of peer
pressure and the temptation of conformity, his explorations of love, and
all of the shame and rage that comes with these things. Yelvington’s
work here is tender and relentless, but also clever and humorous. He
strikes an unexpected balance that gives the words endless appeal.
From Yelvington’s Housekeeping:
“The note he wrote us said, ‘I think I’m gay.’ Randall, whose own son
is ten years older than Evan and lives with his partner in Brooklyn,
pumped his fists and said, ‘Yes! I have two gay sons!’ I glared, pursed
my lips and said, ‘That’s not what this note says.’”
Sean Lovelace’s How Some People Like Their Eggs, the final
collection in the book and the winner of the third annual Rose Metal
Press short short chapbook contest, wears its crown well. It’s funny,
sad, surprising, inventive, playful, etc., and it reminds us that it’s
okay to relax, it’s okay to laugh, it’s okay to not be so damn serious
all the time. And these are nothing if not welcome reminders.
From Lovelace’s Endings:
“A teenage girl catches an amazingly large fish. She pauses, allowing
herself to gaze in wonder. It has a row of bent hooks and five broken
leaders in its mouth. It has a history. The girl isn’t really a girl.
She only plays one online. She is actually a grown man who works in a
chemical company that combines corn husks with hydrochloric acid to
create a polymer used in cruise missiles.” (2011)
Purchase They Could No Longer Contain Themselves HERE.
Reviewer bio: Mel Bosworth is the author of the novel FREIGHT. Visit his website at melbosworth.com