Six-word novels from 25 influential writers
Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in six words. The result: “For sale: baby shoes, never used.” Rumor has it that Hemingway regarded it as his greatest work. Stirred by this masterwork, the editors of BlackBook asked 25 of today’s most renowned writers to offer their own original six-word stories. Some offered more than 10 narratives in less than an hour’s time, while others took weeks to labor over each of their six words. In spite of its economy, the collection delivers the same humor, drama, irony, and suspense found in literature’s lengthier tomes.
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“Forgive me!” “What for?” “Never mind.” –John Updike
Eyeballed me, killed him. Slight exaggeration. –Irvine Welsh
Satan—Jehovah—fifteen rounds. A draw. –Norman Mailer
“Welcome to Moeshe Christiansen’s Bar Mitzvah.” –Andrea Seigel
grass, cow, calf, milk, cheese, France –Rick Moody
He remembered something that never happened. –A.M. Homes
Saigon Hotel. Decades later. He weeps. –Robert Olen Butler
—I love you . . . –Love ya back. –Courtney Eldridge
She gave. He took. He forgot. –Tobias Wolff
You are not shit. You are! –Memoir, Jerry Stahl
All her life: half a house. –Jamie O’Neill
Poison; meditation; skiing; ants—nothing worked. –Edward Albee
My nemesis is dead. Now what? –Michael Cunningham
I saw. I conquered. Couldn’t come. –David Lodge
“Cyanide? Bitter almonds.” He knew. How? –Brian Bouldrey
Father died. Mother triumphed. I left. –Mary Gaitskill
“You? Her? No dice, fat boy.” –Pinckney Benedict
Oh, that? It’s nothing. Not contagious. –Augusten Burroughs
Mother’s Day came, doubling Oedipus’ pleasure. –Bruce Benderson
Tossed remorselessly, whiffle balls sure hurt. –J.T. LeRoy
As she fell, her mind wandered. –Rebecca Miller
It’s negative. Say hi to Mom. –Ben Greenman
Horny professor. Failing coed. No tenure. –“A Short History of Academia,” by Sue Grafton
Shiva destroys Earth: “Well, that’s that.” –A.G. Pasquella
Havana’s no place for hockey, coach. –Nicholas Weinstock.
The above appeared in the Utne Reader, July-August 2005, reprinted from the Fall 2004 Arts Issue of BlackBook. Thanks to Kathy Schienle for passing the challenge along to us.