Sunday, July 12, 2009

What Chekhov Said

A First Time for Everything by Michelle Reale | Word Riot

Michelle Reale's flash, A First Time for Everything, took a few minutes for me to get into. The majority of this piece felt like the writer was looking for something. She finds it in the last two paragraphs and I thought that everything prior could have been cut.

This is flash, a genre where we claim intense focus. However, this piece spends so much time on the mother and father that we sort of forget about the narrator and her sister - until those final graphs where the real flash occurs. The image of those girls looking through a map, longing to escape the madness imposed upon them by their parents, is really touching. This ending needs to be the beginning, these girls are where the real truth of the piece lies.

I could go into more detail, but I'm sorta tired. Happy flashing.

I give this story one fresh polish sausage from a deli on Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago.

Friday, July 3, 2009

When is Now?

SmokeLong Quarterly—Issue Twenty-Five—"Rats" by Z.Z. Boone

I liked this story quite a lot at the outset. I liked how the narrator took off with her father to hunt rats on a Saturday night, something decidedly atypical of a teenage girl. I liked how she had "nerves as sharp as shark's teeth" and easily pulled the trigger, "pop...pop...pop, just like that."

I got off track a bit in the flash forward, especially since I didn't think I was "in scene" at all, but reading a general account of what usually happens on a Friday night in the life of this young woman. I thought perhaps that every week the father laments his divorce and the way he acted "weakly."

Then, we come back to "now," a particular scene where the rats are being hunted. In this version of "now" the narrator is jumping at her father's touch and seems to hold the gun like a fearful newbie. My initial assumptions about the narrator are gone and I suddenly feel adrift, wondering who this character really is.

So, I'm just perplexed. We move from speaking about an activity generally to a flash forward into what seems be a specific instance, back to a specific evening where the narrator has changed from a confident rat-hunter to a shaky adolescent. She now is learning how to handle violent power and her father's presence as an emasculated figure.

I hate to say it, but this piece simply unraveled for me. The more I asked of it, the less it gave. The narrator goes through a change, but it seems to be a regression. Regression is interesting, but I don't know if I have enough to really see how or why she regressed.

Again, I think this piece has a lot going for it. Interesting characters, neat situation, great writing. As the interviewer in the companion article, Smoking With ZZ Boone, says, it is a multi-layered piece. However, like a many-tiered cake, this piece needs a solid support to maintain its structure.

I give this flash a lone, shiny sparkler.