Short Story Spotlight: Anthropology by Dan Rhodes

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Title: Anthropology
Author: Dan Rhodes
Genre: Flash fiction
Publisher: Canongate, 2000
Source: Personal copy
Read for: Nostalgia

This month's short story spotlight is going to be a little different from what I usually do. I want to review Anthropology, Dan Rhodes' anthology of 101 stories about love that are all 101 words long.

I discovered this book when I was lurking around the tiny public library in my home town. I was instantly intrigued. I'd never heard of flash fiction, but I loved the concise style. I don't think I ever checked this book out -- I would just find it on the bookshelves and read a few more stories every time I came to the library. When I saw it for $1.99 on Kindle I had to buy it (unfortunately, it isn't that cheap anymore).

Rhodes' tone is irreverent, ironic, and often downright bizarre. His girlfriends (and there are 101, of course) have names like Lulula, Foxglove, and Hummingbird. The stories are a little more scandalous than I remember, and I think I probably just didn't know what they meant when I read them in my early high school days. They are off the wall and all have a touch of irony. I think flash fiction (and honestly short stories in general) allow authors to experiment without investing too much time. At the same time, they require talent because it is difficult to say something important in just a few words.

Here is one of the stories to whet your appetite:
Orchid is resolute that her first kiss be perfect. I took her to Paris in the Springtime. As we gazed across the Seine at the Eiffel Tower, I made my move. She pushed me away. 'No,' she said. 'It's just not romantic enough. I'm sorry.' I took her to a deserted, palm-fringed Bahamian beach, and her response was the same. I saved and saved until finally we stood at sunset before the Taj Mahal. 'It smells funny,' she said. 'It smells, and there's poor people everywhere.' I was disappointed too. The supposedly magnificent structure paled beside those untouched, velvet lips. 
If you like bizarre, modern, and occasionally touching stories in less than a page, Anthropology will be a fun experience for you.

Warnings: Sensuality, a few disturbing images (described in words, not actual pictures. In case you were confused).


  1. This one has been on my to-read list for a while. Hopefully I'll get around to it in the near future. Thanks!

  2. I've seen some flash fiction contests around my school lately and I've thought of entering but concision in fiction writing isn't my strongest characteristic. Thanks for the reading suggestion though.

  3. @Beth - It is a quick one, only takes an hour or two. Hope you enjoy it when you get to it!

    @Alison - I think flash is a good practice technique for working on that! I have a hard time being concise as well and I like to write flash to practice. Twitter helps too, haha.


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