Smiling Exercises by Dan Malakin consists of 30 small but perfectly formed pieces of flash-fiction. I am put in mind of some of Aliyah Whiteley’s terrific work as Dan manages to imbue the truly bizarre with just enough of the mundane to make his tales entirely believable. The collection kicks off with “Plugs” - a tale of incompatibility displaced and discovered - and passes through some truly memorable writing with an economy of language which is refreshing to see. I found “Mirror” particularly intriguing, but I expect everyone will find their own favourite.
Several of the stories in this collection won prizes or were singled out for special mention in competitions, Dan’s work has been short-listed twice for the Bridport Prize.
At the end of the book there are some chapters from Dan’s novel in progress, The Vaccine Slaves, which whetted my own appetite for the day when it is published.
This is a neat collection of short stories, very unusual in tone and content but in an enjoyable way. By an large they're humorous and to the point, most being a couple of pages or less. Malakin's mind is warped in just the right way, judging by these stories, and I look forward to what he comes up with next.
When it was recommended I read this book I thought, OK I'll give it a go, it's not in my usual repertoire but I don't read much flash fiction and that made me curious. I was not disappointed. This book is a gem. It is full of tales that provoke thought and emotion and that for me is the jewel in Malakins' writing.I found myself pondering the course of many of the stories beyond what was written. Malakin has a gift for strong character development within a short word count. Not an easy feat to achieve,however, his style and flow made it seem effortless. My favourite stories were - All the Animals, and Me , Morning of the Friendly Dead , Brian's Secret Vagina and The Good Doctor. Some stories peppered me with sadness whilst others had me howling with laughter. A great pick and mix of good solid flash fiction. Go on,I dare you, put your hand in the bag. You'll be pleasantly surprised at what you pull out.
So many great stories packed in this book, I loved it! Just the right kind of dark humour and original storytelling to keep you entertained long after you have put it down. And the flash fiction format makes this a great read to take anywhere, be it on holiday, on the daily work commute or even on the toilet! Just brilliant!
I just happened across this collection of short stories by chance, a'wandering as one does through the internet ether......and oh boy, I am so pleased that I did. It truly is hard to put down...no sooner have you finished one hugely enjoyable little yarn than you are immediately hooked on another, and then another, and then another....it's not a feast of literary genius, it is much, much more, it's a brilliant buffet of a book, you can pick and choose what you want, nibble this, nibble that, and just as with all fabulous buffets you'll find that you are fully sated before you realise it. Refreshingly innovative and a 100% entertaining..... Read it, you won't be disappointed!
I absolutely loved this collection of stories! Dan Malakin's writing is smart, funny, insightful, moving (sometimes all at once), and like nothing I've ever encountered.
I have to admit, I haven't read a collection of short stories in many years as I usually prefer longer works and I have not read much flash fiction, but the title and cover pulled me in. This collection was like sitting down to a 30 course tasting menu prepared by a master chef. Each story hit upon its own unique note while still maintaining the harmony of the entire collection. The stories as one are the symphony; individually the woodwinds, he brass, the strings.
Malakin is a thoughtful and compassionate observer of human behavior. He holds up the mirror, but it is one that is framed in sympathy for the plight of the average Joe or Jane in this divine comedy we call the modern age. Malakin's humor is like the best comedians who understand that to laugh is human, to laugh at one's self, divine.
I highly recommend this book. I laughed out loud several times, shook my head as many, and thoroughly enjoyed Malakin's quirky and excellent voice.
The title story is a science fiction satire of a culture of superficial optimism; here’s a quote: ‘So, I smile for fifteen seconds. Anything less than fifteen seconds and the endorphins don't release. When I stop smiling the webcam takes my photo. The analysis comes back – I'm .002% happier than the same time yesterday. I check a graph. Everyday, for the last month, I've been getting incrementally happier, which is odd, because if anything I thought it was the opposite. But who am I to argue? You can't argue with a graph.’ The stories are short, strong and vivid. I really recommend them.
Undoubtedly a writer to watch. Whilst influences such as Palannuik, Saunders and Bret Eason Ellis stand out, Malakin certainly has a new and unique voice. It's also fascinating to see the progress of a writer from eager and competent in his early works, to truly original and accomplished in his later stories. The most exciting British talent in years.