Less Says More

We live in a sound-bite world of tweets and text messages. Even fiction writers are learning literary economy. Inspired by a six-word story attributed to Ernest Hemingway (“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”), the genre is called flash fiction, microfiction, short short, or postcard fiction. Maybe it should be called iPhone fiction. I listened to a story on NPR Weekend Edition about editor Robert Swartwood’s new collection of these tiny tales. The book is Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer.

This creative brevity reminds me of a passage in one of my favorite autobiographies, Brother to a Dragonfly by Will D. Campbell. A friend challenged the author to summarize the Christian message in ten words or fewer. Campbell replied with eight: “We’re all bastards but God loves us anyway.” (I’d change “bastards” to “sinners” though the churchy language of sin is more confusing and less arresting to the uninitiated.)

Slightly more verbose than Campbell, St. Paul gave the Good News in fourteen words to an anxious jailor in Philippi: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).

When it comes to the Gospel, sometimes less says more.

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