It all started with Ernest Hemingway, who wrote what's said to be the saddest story in the world in just six words: "For Sale: Baby shoes. Never worn." That inspired the editors of SMITH Magazine to solicit readers' six-word memoirs, which poured in:
Cursed with cancer. Blessed with friends.
I need sex. I hate men.
I do it to be bad.
...and the sextet that became the title of a recently published collection of 1,000 six-word memoirs: Not Quite What I Was Planning.
The New Yorker's Lizzie Widdicombe attended a celebrity-ful publication party; her Talk of the Town report aptly consists solely of six-word sentences (and some virtuoso punctuation):
Brevity: a good thing in writing. Exploited by texters, gossip columnists, haikuists. Not associated with the biography genre. But then—why shouldn’t it be? Life expectancies rise; attention spans shrink. Six words can tell a story.
(I asked MSWord to tally the total word count of Widdicombe's piece: it came to 679, a number not evenly divisible by six. Not sure where the extra word is.)
Meanwhile, over at the New York Times, health reporter Tara Parker-Pope challenged readers of her blog, Well, to outdo writer Michael Pollan's advice in his new book, In Defense of Food: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Distilled wisdom. Seven words. With a twist.
Parker-Pope received more than 1,000 entries, the best of which you can read here. I liked these a lot:
Drive safely. Use turn signal. Not finger.
Accept him. Or dump him. Relationship fixed.
Know thyself. But not completely. Need surprises.
And from the comments:
Didn't enter. Wish I had. Too late.
Parker-Pope chose six winners (why not seven?): five honorable mentions and a grand prize winner, identified only as A.K., whose entry read:
Ate plants. A big heap. Still hungry.
(About the title of this post: Ever wonder where the expression "at sixes and sevens"--meaning "total confusion" or "loggerheads"--comes from? Michael Quinion explains over at World Wide Words.)