New Micro edited by James Thomas and Robert Scotellaro, collects 135 stories of fewer than 300 words written by 89 different authors. The diversity makes the experience of reading it rather like approaching a series of tide pools and dipping one’s face into one long enough to see the features of the world inside then coming up for a quick taste of air before plunging into the next. In between each pool, seawater clings to the skin like the liquid essence of storytelling itself. As such, the book is most suitable for brief dips, though the ambitious reader may feel the urge to swim shore to shore in one go ... Some stories in the collection display too clearly the machinations of the author’s hand — a danger, perhaps, of a form with such formal limitations. In others that underwhelm, stylistic elements are overbearing despite the stories’ slightness or words are too few to flesh out a plot and bring characters to life. To be left wanting more from a work of microfiction is a sign that its essence hasn’t carried off the page. Yet even these failures sparked questions about what makes a story work, which is useful — a success of a different kind.
In New Micro: Exceptionally Short Stories, editors James Thomas and Robert Scotellaro have assembled an impressive collection of these stories, pulling the best micros from online and print journals, story collections and anthologies ... The stories collected here are broad and diverse, difficult to narrow down, but if any single thing unifies them, it’s the language ... As short as they are, the stories in New Micro are fully formed works of fiction, encapsulating nuanced characters, the scope of a long marriage, or the way small moments shape a day, or a year, or a lifetime. In every case, they outlive their size.
Contributing to the surprises of the micros is their sequence, which is neither chronological nor alphabetical by the authors’ names; the micros are arranged to be read one after another, each new tale subtly resonating in theme or setting with the one that came before it. What’s unclear, though, is the principle according to which stories were included ... What’s particularly disappointing is that the editors did not include more work by nonwhite writers. Given the list of the authors’ books at the back of the anthology, the editors clearly imagine that readers will go on to seek other work by those writers whose micros they especially liked ... The 140 micros in the anthology are a pleasure to read — funny, provoking, and sad. What additional varieties of pleasurable and provoking reading could have been included as well?