Despite the title, THIS IS (NOT ABOUT) DAVID BOWIE bears quite a few mentions of Mr. Stardust. In fact, the late, great Bowie serves as a sort of spiritual throughline for F. J. Morris’ collection of genre-bending short stories. But rather than ruminating on Bowie, Morris uses the mercurial musician as a jumping-off point for her storytelling. For instance, the collection opens with the aptly titled “When David Bowie moved in,” a clever ode to a newlywed couple struggling to make room for a lingering obsession. Meanwhile, “To the woman who saved my life” quickly adjusts the lighthearted tone, injecting a simple ‘thank you’ with the weight of a profoundly moving tale of trauma and survival. And then there’s “Ground zero” and its quirky nod to the emancipating effect of nudity.
THIS IS (NOT ABOUT) DAVID BOWIE is (to borrow a music-industry term) the literary version of ‘all killer, no filler.’ With 25 stories divided into five parts, what Morris’ collection lacks in page count, it more than makes up for with emotional impact. Be it whimsical allegories (“Shrinking giants”), sci-fi-tinged regrets (“Is there life on Mars”), or candid, heart-wrenching memories (“The last thing my father sang to me”), Morris manages to conjure a range of emotions. Even more impressive is just how diverse she is in her approach to, well, everything. Some passages lean heavily on dialogue (“Bunbury snow days”), while others unravel like a confession (“Lifeline”). Even the formatting runs the gamut. While stories like “Dancing in the street” show Morris’ ability to work within the proverbial lines, the sans-punctuation “Slush puppies” is an equally-effective disregard for convention. And through it all, the White Duke remains an ever-present touchstone via direct quotes and veiled lyrical references.
Flash fiction is a deceivingly simple format. Where a traditional novel affords an author hundreds of pages to set their narrative into motion, flash takes the idea of ‘less is more’ to the extreme. Typically clocking in at less than a thousand words, what constitutes ‘good’ typically boils down to the author’s ability to deliver a fully formed story within a few paragraphs. In that regard, FJ Morris’ THIS IS (NOT ABOUT) DAVID BOWIE more than delivers. Not only does the author nail the requisites—concise story, emotive prose, and a powerful ending—Morris’ adept use of recurrent motifs and metaphors adds an incredibly high level of re-readability to this collection. While Bowie fans are an obvious audience for Morris’ release, the evocative nature of Morris’ prose transcends any requirement for fandom. Of course, a working knowledge of the musical icon only adds to the overall effect.
F. J. Morris’ THIS IS (NOT ABOUT) DAVID BOWIE is a ‘must-read’ collection of thought-provoking flash fiction every bit as evocative as the musical icon who inspired the title.
~James Weiskittel for IndieReader