>The Hemingway Challenge

>Six-word novels from 25 influential writers

Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in six words. The result: “For sale: baby shoes, never used.” Rumor has it that Hemingway regarded it as his greatest work. Stirred by this masterwork, the editors of BlackBook asked 25 of today’s most renowned writers to offer their own original six-word stories. Some offered more than 10 narratives in less than an hour’s time, while others took weeks to labor over each of their six words. In spite of its economy, the collection delivers the same humor, drama, irony, and suspense found in literature’s lengthier tomes.

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“Forgive me!” “What for?” “Never mind.” –John Updike

Eyeballed me, killed him. Slight exaggeration. –Irvine Welsh

Satan—Jehovah—fifteen rounds. A draw. –Norman Mailer

“Welcome to Moeshe Christiansen’s Bar Mitzvah.” –Andrea Seigel

grass, cow, calf, milk, cheese, France –Rick Moody

He remembered something that never happened. –A.M. Homes

Saigon Hotel. Decades later. He weeps. –Robert Olen Butler

—I love you . . . –Love ya back. –Courtney Eldridge

She gave. He took. He forgot. –Tobias Wolff

You are not shit. You are! –Memoir, Jerry Stahl

All her life: half a house. –Jamie O’Neill

Poison; meditation; skiing; ants—nothing worked. –Edward Albee

My nemesis is dead. Now what? –Michael Cunningham

I saw. I conquered. Couldn’t come. –David Lodge

“Cyanide? Bitter almonds.” He knew. How? –Brian Bouldrey

Father died. Mother triumphed. I left. –Mary Gaitskill

“You? Her? No dice, fat boy.” –Pinckney Benedict

Oh, that? It’s nothing. Not contagious. –Augusten Burroughs

Mother’s Day came, doubling Oedipus’ pleasure. –Bruce Benderson

Tossed remorselessly, whiffle balls sure hurt. –J.T. LeRoy

As she fell, her mind wandered. –Rebecca Miller

It’s negative. Say hi to Mom. –Ben Greenman

Horny professor. Failing coed. No tenure. –“A Short History of Academia,” by Sue Grafton

Shiva destroys Earth: “Well, that’s that.” –A.G. Pasquella

Havana’s no place for hockey, coach. –Nicholas Weinstock.

The above appeared in the Utne Reader, July-August 2005, reprinted from the Fall 2004 Arts Issue of BlackBook. Thanks to Kathy Schienle for passing the challenge along to us.

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  1. >Silent but deadly. Who would know?

    Phone Tapped. Dead body. I’m what?

    Clear the threshold unless your them.

    Caught in midlife. Grow up!

    God lives! They killed his son!

    Rampant thoughts. Secrets unfold. Start recording.

    Toilet paper on sale. Double up!

    Life with Myron, and my underwear!

  2. >Actually, Flerkin McBlerkin, the Hemmingway one used to seem sad to me until I became a parent. Now that I know how fast kids' feet grow, I realize that no tragedy is required.

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