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Elizabeth J. Colen, John Jodzio, Tim Jones-Yelvington, Sean Lovelace, and Mary Miller

The uncontainability of each of these remarkable collections published by Rose Metal Press suggests the exuberance of the flash fiction form itself, including the way in which, despite its small size, it pushes past its own borders and into the territory of something larger and impossible to confine.


"A wonderful range of voices comes at you from this collection of flash fictions with stories that haunt, that tell of grit and love and loss and longing with the kind of detail and patience that makes your teeth ache."

– Sherrie Flick, author of I Call This Flirting

"With a collection of collections like They Could No Longer Contain Themselves, you begin to get a feel for an entire generation of writers."

– Robert Shapard, coeditor of Sudden Fiction Latino

"What a fantastic collection. Wow! What emerges is the sense of the possibilities of compression and conviction, each piece complete in itself, connected to the whole."

– Randall Brown, author of Mad to Live


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They Could No Longer Contain Themselves

What makes these five chapbooks all belong under one cover?


Early in his short story “The Black Cat,” Edgar Allan Poe has his unreliable narrator declare, “And then came, as if to my final and irrevocable overthrow, the spirit of Perverseness.”

“Who,” he asks, “has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should not?”

This spirit of perverseness — this counter-intuitive yet irresistible impulse toward the icky, the ridiculous, the self-destructive — is at least part of what cannot be contained in the collections that make up the anthology They Could No Longer Contain Themselves.

In each of the five chapbooks that comprise this book, various characters find themselves engaging in activities which might make the reader agree with Poe that “perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart — one of the indivisible primary faculties, or sentiments, which give direction to the character of Man.”

To wit: In John Jodzio’s Do Not Touch Me Not Now Not Ever, the narrator of “The Two Malls” says, “Sometimes at the expensive mall, I buy a cup of soda from the hot dog stand and then balance it on the aluminum railing.  I walk away to the other side of the mall and I wait until someone below is about to walk underneath the cup.  I hit the railing as hard as I can and the railing vibrates and the cup dumps onto the person below.”

In Mary Miller’s Paper and Tassels, the narrator of “My Old Lady” says, “Mama likes it when you slap her, I said, and his eyes narrowed like he didn’t remember mama liking that but he reared back and did it anyway.  My eyes leaked into her pillow.  Then it hit me: the pillowcase had been washed in Gain.  When he finished, he pulled out and said daddy didn’t really like that and I said mama didn’t really like it either, she just wanted to see what it felt like.”

In Elizabeth Colen’s Dear Mother Monster, Dear Daughter Mistake, the narrator of “Rule of Thirds” says “Today my girlfriend and I had sex while a man took pictures in the back yard, I start, in a letter to my mother. This letter is not really intended for her, though when I start I pretend it is.”

In Tim Jones-Yelvington’s Evan’s House and the Other Boys Who Live There, the narrator of “Slime Me” says “Abner was a child who wanted to get slimed. He hungered for the spread of slime across his skin, his favorite the viscous kind that crept to cover, coat, encase. He oozed homemade do-it-yourself Mad Scientist slime though his fingers and hoped someone would cover him in goop.”

And finally, in Sean Lovelace’s How Some People Like Their Eggs, the narrator of “Wal-Mart” says “‘I don’t know a girl named Kristen!’ I shout. (I do.) ‘I never touched her!’ I shout. (I did.)”

The pleasure of reading each section of this book is inextricable from the pleasure of knowing what’s good and choosing what’s bad, of knowing the right thing and doing the wrong one. Poe called this compulsion “the imp of the perverse” and the characters in these stories are certainly driven by this demon. But in the hands of Jodzio, Miller, Colen, Jones-Yelvington and Lovelace, this impulse is revealed to be an inseparable piece of what makes humans so human.

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