Tania Hershman - Flash fiction: We locked him in the Room and then we watched him on our screens. He skipped across the carpet, put his nose up to the window. An airplane flew by and we imagined what he must be thinking

Tania Hershman, My Mother Was An Upright Piano, Tangent Books, 2012.

 My Mother Was an Upright Piano: Fictions builds on the strengths of Tania Hershman's first collection of short stories The White Road and Other Stories, which was commended by the judges of the 2009 Orange Award for New Writers. Hershman's fiction is inspiring, thought-provoking and witty. Her economy with words cloaks her subtlety and power, and she is able to create characters with distinct voices and explore deep and sometimes disturbing relationships is just a few paragraphs of prose. Her writing style has a lyrical quality and often the meter of her work brings added resonance to her themes.

 "Tania Hershman makes immaculate tiny stories that punch ten times heavier than their weight, as if a 500 page novel had been ground up and distilled into capsule form. They are so biting and so perfect they seem to hang in the air for moments after you’ve finished reading them, like little prayers. Emotionally wrenching, funny, quirky, and full of condensed wisdom, insight and love, Hershman’s short short stories are whirring, ticking word machines waiting to explode inside you."  David Gaffney
“Unique voices of mystery, love and loss in stories thrumming with big ideas. Elegant and powerful.” - Paddy O'Reilly

"The writer Alasdair Gray once described himself as “a maker of imagined objects.”  It strikes me that Tania Hershman needs a more artful descriptor than ‘writer,’ too: brilliant; mysterious; not of this earth—I adore her and I adore this book." - Marjorie Celona

  "Funny, fresh, lyrical.  These stories are like colorful glass lozenges holding the substance of our everyday lives, sparkled up by the unusual and wondrous." Aimee Bender

“This collection is two rich catalogs interleaved. In the first, the stories succeed precisely where their own characters fail: these deft fictions are full of (and about) the humor and heartbreak made manifest when communication fails. In the second, meaning somehow gets through, albeit not through words, but through physics, say, or music, say, or love. Together the two halves lay bare a world where speaking clearly is nothing short of heroic.” - Roy Kesey

"Tania Hershman's fictions are incredible things which both challenge and explore the wider picture whilst honing in on the minutae of everyday life. Bold, assured and poetic My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions confirms Hershman's standing as an important contemporary voice."
- Lee Rourke

"Simply superb, and anything but simple, these fictions peel back the layers we build up over our lives with the sharpest of scalpels: the eye of that rare creature - a real writer." - Vanessa Gebbie

Short short fiction aka flash fiction has a hard job with visibility. It’s so… short. Ephemeral. Over in an instant. And not a format that traditional publishers are falling over themselves to get into print. So it’s something of an achievement thatTania Hershman’s collection of flash fictions, My Mother Was An Upright Piano, has not only been published but also featured on BBC Radio 4’s Pick of theWeek. Short fiction apparently doesn’t sell perhaps because it is notoriously ‘difficult’. It’s stuff to be studied in universities, not read for pleasure. Or is it? Hershman’s fictions are experimental yet accessible, and their length acts in their favour in a world where we are all apparently time-poor and attention deficit disordered.
The title story is a great place to start. It showcases Hershman’s ability to extend an apt metaphor, and make it resound with meaning, humour and pathos in a minimum of words:
“My mother was an upright piano, spine erect, lid tightly closed, unplayable except by the maestro. My father was not the maestro.”
The whole story is barely more than a page long, but this first line takes you right to the heart of the issue. Getting the opening right is one of the big challenges of short form writing, and it’s one of Hershman’s real strengths.
Another is her range: she’s good at upbeat stories about the fragile start of love and lust; she’s great at writing about damaged, inarticulate people, and she’s got an interesting sideline in science/fiction going on that I feel would be worth her exploring in longer form. She’s also strong on horrific and heart rending scenarios, which pepper the collection – stories like ‘Move Quickly Now’, ‘The Angle of His Bending’ or ‘Into The Waiting Arms of God’, which are obliquely told, yet which leave you chilled. Again no mean feat in the confines of a couple of hundred words.
She also experiments with form, with some good results – I particularly liked the stories told from the point of view of trees (‘The Apple Trees Watched and Wondered’) and a new born baby (‘Colours Shift and Fade’) and those about people in queues (‘Waiting In Line’ and ‘The Beam Line’).
This is strong and assured writing, which demands your attention. No skimming or scanning here: but even the most time starved potential reader can and should be able to spare three minutes to give undivided attention to one of these.
A minor quibble: I spotted four typos in the edition I read. At a cover price of £9.99 for a paperback, I’d expect better. In case there’s a chance of a second print run, Tangent Books editor please take note.
Any Cop?: Good book for people with no time. Read on public transport, between meetings, when the baby’s having a nap. Recommended for aspiring short fiction writers. Read this and learn your craft." - Ebba Brooks

On Goodreads, Berit Ellingsen says: "there is no doubt that Hershman is an expert of the very short story. The themes in the collection are nicely cohesive and the voice and narrative structure well varied. I’ve had the pleasure of reading many of these stories in their individual publication, but reading them all together for a full impression of the author’s warm voice and deft descriptions, was even better." Read the full review. 

And Roxane Gay says  "The stories that were great ... were truly great. I particularly liked how she was able to warp reality and time in different ways. Hershman is not lacking in imagination and this is definitely a book worth reading." Read the full review.
David Clarke says: "Tania Hershman's prose...[is] a kind of poetic prose, a heightened prose - but somehow not prose poetry. She's interested in the things unsaid, the gap between desire and fulfilment, things we leave hanging in the air. That's where these short pieces work best. She conjures a situation - sometimes commonplace, sometimes surreal - then leaves us to imagine the hows, the whys and the what-nexts." Read the full blog post.

Scott Pack, who reviews short stories over at Me and My Big Mouth, says of the title story of my collection: "A more beautiful few lines on the bittersweet reality of adultery you'll be hard pressed to find.
." Read the review here.

Benjamin Judge says: "If I had to sum up Tania Hershman’s prose in a word (and I don’t, but I’m going to anyway for dramatic effect) that word would be ‘alive’....Since The White Road, Hershman has been one of the names I most often think of whilst arguing the short story is actually going through a very good patch thank-you-very-much. My Mother was an Upright Piano confirms her as one of the most interesting writers around. You need to buy this one..." Read his full review here.

Brian Clegg calls the book "... a brilliant collection. And the stories are so short that if you don't like one it doesn't matter - you are already into the next (the difficulty is putting it down)". Read his full review here.

excerpt »
My mother was an upright piano, spine erect, lid tightly closed, unplayable except by the maestro. My father was not the maestro. My father was the piano tuner; technically expert, he never made her sing. It was someone else's husband who turned her into a baby Grand.
How did I know? She told me....

read some fictions:

my mother was an upright piano watch me read this!
we watched him  on our screens
it could almost be an accident

watch the trailer

Tania Hershman's web site