Answers to Questions About “Ten Seconds”

A few people have asked me a number of questions about my book. I will address them in this blog post.

 Why I chose to write flash fiction? Flash fiction, for those who don’t know, is extremely short prose, generally up to 1000 words (more details about it here). As for me, I was always fascinated by prose poetry and haiku (the Japanese traditional poetry consisting of only three lines, the first and last having five syllables, and the middle one having seven, always) because of their extraordinary concision, the way those writers are able to say so much in so little words, how they are able to express a multitude of thoughts and feelings in only a few lines. To go into detail, with this book, in form I was influenced by the prose poems of French writers Aloysius Bertrand (Gaspard de la Nuit – Gaspard of the Night), Charles Baudelaire (Le Spleen de Paris/Petits poèmes en prose –Paris Spleen), and Arthur Rimbaud (Illuminations); in style, themes, and subject (ordinary people living ordinary lives), by the short stories of Romanian writer I.A. Bassarabescu, American writers Raymond Carver, James Salter, and Russian writer Anton Chekhov (another influence was the American writer John Williams, especially his novel Stoner, which I absolutely love); in spirit, by haiku poetry (in fact, I could say that I write flash fiction because I don’t feel capable of writing haiku). There isn’t one particular haiku poet that influenced me, I’ve read various haiku anthologies; it was more the idea, the thought process behind the haiku that interested me, the extreme concision and discipline of the words. Another Japanese creation that greatly influenced me was the concept of mono no aware. Roughly translated as empathy toward things or sensitivity to ephemera, this term expresses an awareness of the transience of all things, which can instill in a person a gentle sense of melancholy about their own existence or life in general. The concept has permeated almost all aspects of Japanese art, from poetry to paintings or films. Actually, one story in the book, On the Bus, was inspired more or less directly by a Japanese movie, Unagi/The Eel (1997).

The stories in Ten Seconds can be read independently from each other. However, taken as a whole, this book tries to portray a human life, from birth to death (and almost everything in between), hence the “interconnection” (there are also other linking details that will reward an attentive reader; I like it when a book slowly reveals itself, like an Ad Reinhardt painting). It didn’t start out this way. Initially, it supposed to be just a collection of stories with no particular overall theme, gathered from my blog. But, as I began putting them together, I noticed that two of them, Ten Seconds and Birthday (both written in 2016 – at about the same time as the longest story in the book, Bad Strategy – and published on my blog with some modifications in 2017; all of them were edited again for the book) had a similar tone. Then I got the idea that these two could represent different stages in a person’s life and I began developing the book around that, in the spirit of mono no aware. I also wanted to experiment a little bit – one story is told from the second person perspective, one is told backwards (from end to beginning), one is written in the present tense and contains multiple flashbacks…

Why “Ten Seconds”? I thought it was a good title because: 1) there are 10 stories (a nice round number); 2) we have a short life, and I think what’s really remarkable about the “life events” is how unremarkable they are in the grand scheme, how unexpectedly they come and how fast they pass. And most of the times it’s the little moments that matter. Many life-changing moments can happen in… ten seconds (which is what happens in the stories, most of the characters’ lives change in a few seconds, or most of the events take place within seconds).

Will I develop the stories more into a novel/longer stories/etc.? No, because there’s nothing more to develop. The essential has been expressed. Anything else would be superfluous. These are complete stories. Their brevity is not a mistake, it’s a choice. Saying that a flash fiction story is underdeveloped is kind of like saying a haiku is underdeveloped.

Anyway, these were the core ideas behind Ten Seconds. Whether I’ve succeeded or not in my artistic goals, that’s not for me to say. I only hope that you, dear reader, get some enjoyment out of this very short book. Thank you for reading it.

Note: this post will be updated if there will be more questions in the future.

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