Only So Much Air: A Flash Metaphor

January 16, 2015 § 4 Comments

BalloonAs we count down to Brevity‘s upcoming January 2015 issue, here’s a brilliant new metaphor for flash prose from Brevity contributor Jill Talbot:

Think of the flash essay like a balloon.  At the essay’s first line, that balloon begins to deflate and there’s only so much air, so we read with that movement, follow the elastic energy of escaping air until it runs out.

The air should move in one whooshing direction so that we feel the push down the page.

The flash can only hold so much—too many people crowd it, too much complexity weighs it down—and we’re left with that sad, half-inflated balloon limping along the floor. And if we alter the direction with a distraction, the balloon reverses its momentum and re-inflates. Too much air and the balloon pops, and we’re startled from our suspension.

[Experimental flash essayists let their deflating balloons go—creating a frenzy of zigzag, a mid-air dance of defiance.]

In the collapse—the last line—we want to be left with the echo of sudden air.


Jill Talbot is the author of Loaded: Women and Addiction, co-editor of The Art of Friction: Where (Non)Fictions Come Together, and the editor of Metawritings: Toward a Theory of Nonfiction.  Her essays have appeared in or are forthcoming from DIAGRAM, Ecotone, The Normal School, Passages North, The Paris Review Daily, The Pinch, Seneca Review, Zone 3, and more.


§ 4 Responses to Only So Much Air: A Flash Metaphor

  • ryderziebarth says:

    Brillant, as always.

  • John says:

    An interesting metaphor — one I’d not heard before. Though, I wonder if it can’t be used in the other direction (though I’m certain I’ll not articulate this near as nicely as your metaphor):

    A balloon holds a finite amount of air. The short essay is the air that inflates the balloon — filling it with just the right amount of air, being careful not to over-fill the balloon, least it burst. Finally, the essay is wrapped up, tied up like the end of the balloon, to hold all the air in place. It is then released into the air, to dance on the breeze.

    (See, I told you mine wouldn’t be as good … ) 🙂

  • What a great metaphor. Thanks for this new way to think about that feeling of being pushed or pulled (or dragged or exhaled) through an essay.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Only So Much Air: A Flash Metaphor at BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.


%d bloggers like this: