Matthew J. Hall’s review in Screaming With Brevity

Screaming with Brevity


A Review: The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories by Nancy Stohlman

Nancy StohlmanIt has been suggested that the popular trend of Flash Fiction is largely due to lazy readers and busy lives. Nancy Stohlman’s The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories is a collection of Flash Fiction where the content justifies and even defends its own form. Here is an author who truly understands what it means to strip a story down to its essential elements. While this style of writing may be well suited to those with a limited attention span, or the modern individual whose hectic schedule refuses to make allowances for art – this book is far more than an exercise in saving time and effort. Furthermore, this carefully crafted set of stories is too engaging to be fobbed off as part of a popular trend; these shorts are a perfectly balanced mix of humour, irreverence, absurdity and an occasional touch of pathos.

As the title suggests, the book has two themes running through the collection. There are various well-known biblical tales, told from a somewhat humanistic perspective. Stohlman’s tongue in cheek humour is restrained and subtle. While she clearly relishes the odd dalliance with irreverence, only a fanatic would describe these stories as blasphemous. In the story, Annunciation, we are introduced to the mother of Christ as a wholly relatable character. In Lazarus, we find poor-old Lazarus wondering what to do with his second shot at life. Perhaps the best of the bunch – in terms of saying more with less – is the story, Jonah. In the space of two sentences the classic yarn is turned on its head with a rare treat of sarcastic, self-mocking brevity.

The second theme, and perhaps the stronger of the two, is the vixen – the female fox. The strange story of The Fox is essentially a love story, but it is one you won’t have read before. Told in seven, sensual instalments throughout the book, The Fox ruminates on age-old human experience, within a uniquely new and rather absurd concept.

Outside of the two themes some of the subject matter delves into fairly dark territory, but never becomes uncomfortable or sinister; and there is absurdity aplenty. Some of these stories could be described as slightly quirky, whereas others are downright bizarre. The socially awkward penis, an affair with a cardboard cut-out, a miniature version of the boyfriend who fits neatly in the inner pocket of a purse and a literal meeting with the younger self are some of many unlikely scenarios that could easily have slipped into irritating silliness in less capable hands. Fortunately, Stohlman steers clear from those qualities one might associate with bizarro fiction; that is to say that all of these smoke-long tales make sense and have a purpose.

The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories is a thoroughly entertaining trove of laughter. More importantly, it pokes fun at the human experience without trivializing it. There are moments of unabashed joy and mountains of broken sadness. There is hopeful longing and spiteful loathing and its surrealism is built on a foundation of realism. Nancy Stohlman is a writer who understands the power of silence and knows how to scream with brevity. Buy your copy of The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories from Amazon in paperback or Kindle here.

Matthew J. Hall

Matthew J. Hall

An avid reader, writer and reviewer of poetry and short fiction. Author of self-published poetry collections From the Depths and Through the Madness (May 2013), Play the Sad Violin (July 2013) and In the Bleak Hours (October 2013). Most recent chapbook, Pigeons and Peace Doves will be available through Blood Pudding Press June 2015.

Flash Fiction Chronicles Book Review

by Andreé Robinson-Neal

Nancy Stohlman

Have you ever read something that made you feel the space of the characters, like what you’re reading isn’t about someone else—some fictional them—but a very real and present you? Nancy Stohlman’s The Vixen Scream takes you there, whether you want to go or not.

The room smells musty, like wet clothes were shoved and left to die in all the corners. (Death Row Hugger)

Stohlman offers a you a seat on a rickety coaster ride—not one of those break-neck affairs that rushes you from start to finish and leaves you unsure of what happened, but that one ride at the carnival you’ve always been afraid of because there are things in the dark that sneak up and grab you unawares. What do you say about falling in love with a homunculous of your boyfriend? If you’re Lazarus, do you long for Jesus or the tomb? What is the “regular life” of a Jehovah’s Witness like?

I’m not saying I’m proud of how it all went down. But maybe if those collection agencies hadn’t been calling me all the time. After avoiding another 800 number last Saturday morning, I looked over at you sleeping, lips pursed, eyelids fluttering, all mussed up like a baby koala, and I thought: there are plenty of people out there who would pay good money for that. (I Pawned My Boyfriend for $85)


The prose is hauntingly beautiful, to the point you bite your lip because you know something is coming, but you don’t know what and the anticipation is killing you and then, there it is: the vixen, ehem, just had fox babies and let them run off. Of course it’s fantastic, unbelievable, impossible, but is it really? If you readThe Quickening, you’ll believe. Stohlman answers every question you’ve ever thought to yourself in the darkest night, including “what’s the cost of a broken heart?” and “what would a sculpture of my spite look like?”

There are tales that will make you laugh and then immediately look around in wonder, because it might not have been appropriate to giggle at such an experience. To wit:

One morning Mr. G woke up without his penis. It was just missing. There was no blood, no struggle. He tried to remember when he’d last seen it. Certainly he’d gone to the bathroom before bed? Yes, the unflushed toilet confirmed. (Missing: Reward)

The snickers are sure to continue as Mr. G looks for his lost appendage in the bedsheets, piles of clothes, and ultimately in the butter dish. There are moments that will make you wonder if you should stop and cry, or simply agree and keep reading. And just when you’ve gotten in the groove with the vixen and the fox, there are real fox statistics to make you think. Yes, Stohlman educates as well as entertains.

But there is an underlying something that adds a shiny brilliance to each piece. You want more, but the stories are so very complete. Of course you want to know what happened next to the magician’s assistant, but psychically, you already know. As you let out the breath you’ve been holding for a hundred-plus pages, you realize you’ve reached the end, and you want more. Find it



Andreé Robinson-Neal got bit by the writing bug back in the late 1970s while watching Rod Serling and reading Ray Bradbury—both of whom are everyday inspirations; although she has worked in education for more than a quarter-century, she has never been cured of her penchant for speculative fiction. Find some of her flash fiction at She writes under the name AR Neal, who will hopefully one day be identified as a famous NaNoWriMo participant.

Skylight Press Review: “A Few Strange New Hybridities in Literature”

Vixen ScreamThe Vixen Scream & Other Bible Stories by Nancy Stohlman
(Pure Slush Books)

As I have found out for myself, there are no limits to what a mixilating group of short stories can become. A veritable championer of Flash Fiction, Nancy Stohlman embarks upon a strange and irreverent series to situate the reader with death-row volunteers, stewardesses, Avon-lady stalkers, magicians and homunculi just for starters. There are some flashes to be sure but these stories aren’t mere formal reductions or glib plot encapsulations come about by editorial stripping. This is a strange and enticing grouping of vignettes where skeletal structure is ruled by omission or by the vague projections of causality. We traverse momentary realms from the surreal to the absurd to the mythopoetic, often propped up by illogical scaffolding or some labyrinthine state of limbo. There are hints of Kafka, Hoffman, Borges – even more contemporary types like Jonathan Carroll or Angela Carter perhaps. But among these twisted miniatures runs two seams that hint at some totalizing purpose; the first being a set of blasphemous biblical paraphrases and the second offering the on-going presence of the Red Fox. This is an odd and intriguing juxtaposition but the returning fox, although via unconventional treatments, seems to offer the same totemic reverence often found in Native American and Scandinavian myths. So often cast as the trickster, and here infiltrating a world of literary tricks, the presence, although tragic, is a grounding one.

Read whole article including other reviews from Skylight Press here