Little Feasts by Jules Archer is an aptly-named. Each story is a delicacy unto itself, small yet filling, visceral and sometimes vicious.
The collection starts on a high note with “In-N-Out Doesn’t Have Bacon.” Multiple sentences in this electric story carry more weight than you’d think the average sentence could handle. The first of which conveys the conflict and desire anchoring the tale, and in some regard, the collection, namely: savage disorientation. The narrator notes, “Secretly, I love him, but I’m older, and I’ve been told I’m too sad to satisfy a man and am only recently free to date again.” Every phrase bends the story in a new direction until we’ve discovered numerous personal vectors for the character.
This initial story is full of heavy sentences like this that sweep it quickly through its pages, tense, tensile, never fragile or in danger of shattering. And while the rest of the collection doesn’t disappoint, it is hard to match the sunburst of “In-N-Out Doesn’t Have Bacon” because of its electric crackle.
The other standout in this riveting book was “Anne Boleyn Could Drink You Under the Table,” which imagines Anne Boleyn reincarnated as a modern college student. Her juxtaposition of this historical figure against modern mores makes for fantastic sentences like, “She hasn’t yet been able to open a book about herself; instead, she wants to understand how the men speak of her – if she is mentioned at all.” And later, “She supposes times have changed, though she can’t necessarily say if the fight is better.”
Feminist throughout, “Anne Boleyn Could Drink You Under the Table” gives Archer room to flex philosophical through a wonderfully inventive premise that veers speculative while still making marked observations about our world and way of life. Flash fiction as a genre was made for this type of blend so it is exhilarating that Archer makes such good use of the format.
This is flash fiction that resembles the mythical snake whose head eats its own tail. A loop of ingestion and mastication.
Archer provides a clear reminder that stories have the power to devour even as we devour them. Little Feasts admits that humans are damaged, often and irrevocably by other humans. Often, this damage can be transmogrified into a literary feast, as Archer does here.
Little Feasts is published by Thirty West Publishing House.