Monday, November 2, 2009

Cain, Caleb, Cameron by Matt Bell

w i g l e a f : (very) short fiction

I really liked this piece by Matt Bell. In retrospect, I'm a bit baffled that I did. I'll try to explain after some play-by-play of my reading.

He jumps right out with a strong first sentence. Two babies were expected but only one was born - this is compelling, as are the phrases "pummeled womb" and "troubled cavity." So, I'm hooked. This is visceral, this is fascinating in that train-wreck sort of way - "mistaked-toothed"? WTF?? I'm hooked.

Then comes the horrific lyricism of the second paragraph. Wow, now I'm really hooked. Damn fine writing here. "What delta of destruction flowing!" Holy crap! That's some fancy writing!

Ultimately, it's the writing and the inventive language use which gets me into and keeps me going through these few (<500) words. It's a demonically creative idea which is really given real life by a writer who likes to write - and who is not afraid to turn a phrase. I appreciate this.

After the dust had settled, the blood dried, I took another look. This thing is written from the viewpoint of a detached 1st person narrator. He's sorta there, but not really. He reports on what his wife is going through and what the kid is like, but not much more.

I'm usually livid when I see stuff like this published. Why? Because I find it to be a hollow device where the writer can distance himself from everything and just tell us a story. Like when someone tells you all about a movie. They're not involved in the movie at all, but they're telling you anyway.

Often, these narrators are just telling a story - you know, not showing...

Bell's narrator is such a wordsmith that he does show me the story. It's brought to life, and it's creepy as hell.

Compare to, Yellowfin Tuna, posted at JMWW. In Christian Bell's story, the narrator seems to be desensitized and keeps a distance from the character and the action of the story. The words are flat, the emotion is sucked out. Yet, I guess we always want objectivity when being delivered the news.

Personally, I'll take Matt Bell's approach to delivering a story - alive, rich with language, and totally visceral.

I give Matt Bell's story five jack 'o lanterns and a sack of candy corn. Yes, I know that Halloween was yesterday.

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