Fri 30 Apr 2010
Like many writers, I’ve read a wide spectrum of fiction. I’ve read the classics and the out and out trash. I’ve read genre and meta-fiction. I’ve read prose poems and flash fiction. Three writers spoke to my soul: Hemingway, John O’Hara and Raymond Carver. For me, Hemingway made the fictional world a real place through his use of concrete sense details and through his use of sequences of action. John O’Hara made me appreciate just how much weight good dialogue can carry and still sound natural. From Raymond Carver I stole form. There is a straight line that runs from Hemingway through O’Hara through Carver to Compressionism. Compressionism is the use of words to paint a picture that tells a story. If you want to go back further than Hemingway there’s Chekhov.
But now we must strip the language once again as periodically it must be stripped and return it to its concrete, distilled, image driven purity. Image, thought and language help to make us human. In the cluttered ultra-postmodern, apocalyptic world community we live in, we must constantly remind ourselves of our communal humanity. We all dream. We all dream in images. We compressionist must commit to image in all its horrible clarity. Clarity must be our artistic truth.
Some may ask, why must the image be horrible? It is not the image but the clarity that is horrible. It is this rendering of an image that has not been censored by the intellect, by the conscious mind that is horrible. The conscious mind is merely an island on the ocean of the subconscious mind. This is not to say the intellect has no place in the creation of art. There would be no art without the vision and discipline of the intellect. But it is the image driven nether inner world of the universal subconscious mind that the compressionist must seek to render.
So let it begin here in Pittsburgh, this struggle for a language so stripped, so concrete and so distilled and image driven that beauty is not the subject matter because the unflinching clarity of the rendering is the subject matter. This is the goal of Compressionism.
What should be the length of the compressionist short story? For the purist, somewhere around 1,000 words. Of course, this is only a suggestion. But an image driven flash fiction story will always be able to say more, to imply more, than a non-compressionist story of similar length. We are not talking poetry. We are talking about a prose that reaches beyond poetry, a prose that with luck reaches a third and forth and even a fifth dimension.
What should be the ultimate goal of Compressionism? To produce flash fiction that revitalizes the language. To have flash fiction writers read by the many and studied in our halls of higher learning. To ultimately have the very short story take its rightful place along side the poem, short story and novel as one of the great artistic forms of literature.
Bio: Guy Hogan is a Vietnam War veteran and the editor/publisher of the Pittsburgh Flash Fiction Gazette. He received his MFA in fiction writing from the University of Pittsburgh in 2006. Compressionism: The Pittsburgh Stories is his ebook of flash fiction.