Claire Armitstead 

Wanted: your flash critique

Earlier this week we celebrated National Flash Fiction day by asking for our readers' flash novels. Now we're looking for your flash criticism
  
  

For those who were too deeply engrossed in an old-fashioned book to be following the week's literary news, Wednesday was the UK's first National Flash Fiction Day.

We celebrated this microcosmic event by commissioning David Gaffney, one of the pioneers of the form, to come up with a how-to guide for aspirant micro-writers. Then we waited for the truncated tale to pour in - and in they duly poured, both on the main book site and from our children's site members.

If any conventional writers were miffed by the idea that tiny tales might be taken seriously as literature, we apologise - and can assure them that their pain was nothing to ours on the Guardian book team, when it was claimed that Amazon's consumer reviews were as reliable as the those produced by the sweat of our brow.

Our grief grew as the week wore on and we were beseiged by requests from the world's non-literary media to write about the decline of the "expert" book review, which - a colleague drily remarked - was like asking a turkey to design a carving knife for Christmas.

The whole point of what we have been doing in the last year is to develop a mixed economy, whereby the best reader reviews sit alongside our own commissions in recognition of the fact that there are different kinds of expertise. So in a flash of rebellion we have decided to ask our readers to join us in a party game for the weekend: flash critique.

The challenge is to come up with a micro-review of a classic novel. To kick it off, we started a #microcrits hashtag on Twitter inviting the tweetocracy to come up with anything as pithy and insightful as Irish Times critic Vivian Mercier's 1956 description of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot as "a play in which nothing happens, twice," or Walter Kerr's 1951 dismissal of a stage version of Isherwood's Berlin stories, I am a Camera: "Me no Leica".

Though many of the contributions are closer to plot precis than criticism, there were some little gems. They included, in no particular order,:
@katyha on Mansfield Park: The Price is Right.
@discobethan on Moby-Dick: how to lose a whale in three days
Lucysixmith on Clarissa: Clarissa: girl writes letters, man writes letters, their friends write letters, much disaster, more letters.
@paulcrask on Germinal: The Pits
@eilishohanlon on L'Etranger: Mum died. Killed an Arab. Didn't help. Who'd have guessed?
@ultoryan on The Count of Monte Cristo: Countdown of no-accounts being held to account.
@smanfarr: Ulysses: Yes One day in Ireland yes shit happens yes.
@CurtAntoinette on Animal Farm: Pigs are revolting

For what it's worth my own very first microreview is of William Burroughs' The Naked Lunch: Blaaargh, blghlaaar, aaarghbl

Now it's over to you. We have copies of the World Book Night classics to give away to the authors of our favourite contributlons, which we will print on Monday.

 

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