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Tag: child characters

Flash fiction story: “The Exhibit”

“The Exhibit,” by Samantha Kimmey

Appeared in Split Lip Magazine, September 2018

395 words

Great atmosphere. I like how the woman who ends up acting more or less as the main character only appears as an individual halfway through (after 199 words). The real main character seems to be the crowd.

I like the satire here too, the way the visitors assess their own reactions to the art rather than actually responding to it. They don’t recognize it as actual real-life cruelty because the context is so alienating.

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Flash fiction story: “When Mummy Visits”

“When Mummy Visits,” by Felicia Wulandari

Every Day Fiction, February 10th, 2019

983 words

I had a hard time understanding this one, but I was impressed with the writing. I think it’s the story of a man who’s had a fraught relationship with his mother since childhood and now struggles to accept her. It seems she verbally abused him, or perhaps was merely incoherent and frightening due to a mental illness, and he physically attacked her in response, and now he perhaps feels guilty.

Short story: “Blessed Are the Forgetful”

“Blessed Are the Forgetful,” by C.A. Schaefer

Necessary Fiction, January 30th, 2019

2,731 words

The second paragraph, that one line, grabbed me. A thoughtful and striking piece.

Flash fiction story: “Marie’s Lovely Picture”

“Marie’s Lovely Picture,” by Robert Norton

Every Day Fiction, January 30th, 2019

967 words

I found the child’s deflections and imagination charming, and the last line is nice. I wish I could tell this well-meaning father to quit pressuring her. He should be defending her from his mother’s demands, not enabling them.

Short story: “Mona Sparrow”

“Mona Sparrow,” by Lauren Green

Appeared in Conjunctions:71, A Cabinet of Curiosity, Fall 2018

A little over 12 pages; 12 pages would be about 6,348 words

Ah, the capricious loves and hates of children (or rather, young teenagers). The way bullying can turn vicious for no apparent reason, and choose a different victim as though at random. What looks like kindness emerges in the main character’s behavior—more than once—but don’t trust it for a second.

I suppose this is a good example of magic realism. The magical elements come gradually, one by one.

Semicolon watch: Noticed a few casual ones, connecting short independent clauses.

Short story: “The Gifts of War”

“The Gifts of War,” by Margaret Drabble

Appeared in Winter’s Tales 16 in 1970; collected in A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman: Complete Short Stories; also in the anthology Into the Widening World: International Coming-of-Age Stories, edited by John Loughery

About 16 pages in my library’s copy of A Day in the Life; ? words

A story of accidental cruelty that has stuck with me for years. Now that I think about it, the plot sort of reminds me George Saunders’ “Puppy,” but this story is quieter and the heartbreak happens onstage, from an outsider’s point of view. The clash between different social classes is similar too. As in “Puppy,” the point of view stays close to one character and then switches to another about halfway through, at a section break. This story is way more successful at differentiating the two voices.

If there’s a social message/satire intended here, I don’t get it. The title and epigraph seem out of place to me. I see it as loss-of-innocence story, with the college kids’ naive politics being nothing more of a foil for the unhappy woman’s jadedness and involuted life. Joyce Carol Oates actually described this as “an antiwar story” in the New Yorker, so consider me entirely out of the loop on this one.

I first read this in the coming-of-age anthology mentioned above, and I’m still not sure which character is supposed to be coming of age.

Short story: “Big, Dark Hole”

“Big, Dark Hole,” by Jeffrey Ford

Appeared in Conjunctions:71, A Cabinet of Curiosity, Fall 2018

8.25 pages in the magazine, therefore approximately 4,364 words

The struggle to understand and remember someone who’s lost forever. This struggle seems to arise most often with suicides, and, as in this case, disappearances that might or might not be suicides. It’s like there’s something unfinished and we have to keep telling the story to find out how it ends.

That’s the struggle to understand. The struggle to remember involves the horror or melancholy of losing parts of our own stories, parts of ourselves.

Like “Transfer,” this story is about an outside observer of a mysterious drama that’s never completely explicated. I find it more effective though. Maybe because it so blatantly dwells on the narrator’s loss at the end, making it clear to the superficial reader (me) what the story was about. “Transfer” ends with the narrator contemplating the harm she has done by interfering, and then “marvel[ing]” at the stories she can now tell. Perhaps that story is about casual cruelty, and was just too subtle for me.

The last line ought to be a little too neat, but to my ear it rings just right. The narrator is approaching his own death, his own disappearance.

I admire the prose—snappy and full of juice.

My theory on the dog is that he was bleached by old urine.

Short story: “Me and Miss Mandible”

“Me and Miss Mandible,” by Donald Barthelme

First appeared in 1961 in Contact, issue 7 (I can’t find this magazine and presume it’s defunct), under the title “The Darling Duckling at School” (which I think is terrible); collected in Come Back, Dr. Caligari (Little, Brown and Company, 1964) and Sixty Stories (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1981); online here

4,185 words—or close enough

So this was Barthelme’s first published story? Wouldn’t have guessed. Rereading, I want to quote so many lines. This wonderful portrait of prepubescent sexuality, for instance: “Amos Darin has been found drawing a dirty picture in the cloakroom. Sad and inaccurate, it was offered not as a sign of something else but as an act of love in itself. It has excited even those who have not seen it, even those who saw but understood only that it was dirty. The room buzzes with imperfectly comprehended titillation.”

I wonder what we’re to make of Miss Mandible (what a name!) being “ruined but fulfilled”? Was her moment of sexual ecstasy worth her job? Maybe her fulfillment is part of an elaborate fantasy going on here. (Either the narrator or Barthelme is a bit of a pig, after all; he thinks a little girl has “a woman’s disguised aggression and a woman’s peculiar contradictions.”)

But we’re told Miss Mandible “knows now that everything she has been told about life, about America, is true.” Doesn’t that go against the main idea in this story, the way “the authorities” run so much of our lives, the arbitrariness of so much of society and the roles we play in it? “Who decides?” Isn’t Miss Mandible, after all, being punished for the authorities’ edict that a thirty-five-year-old is actually eleven? Or is her punishment itself the thing that confirms in her mind the authorities’ righteousness? How is it that “truth is punishment”? I don’t know. I enjoy the story without being able to puzzle it out.

Glad I googled Sounds of Sebring.

Flash fiction story: “Eight Tips for Living with the Monster Under Your Bed”

“Eight Tips for Living with the Monster Under Your Bed,” by Derek Heckman

Appeared here in Wigleaf, December 12th, 2018

1,002 words (I’m rounding down to count it as flash fiction)

This seems to be—pardon my literal-mindedness—a story of childhood schizophrenia, and how it gradually becomes unbearable. The last line, the bit in italics, is surely spoken by an imaginary version of the boy’s brother.

The use of second person imparts a sense of intimacy. Perhaps second person is a good substitute for first when the character is incapable of narrating (in this case because of his age).

Short story: “STET”

“STET,” by Sarah Gailey

Appeared in Fireside Magazine, October 2018 (read here); recommended to me by a friend with good taste

1,434 words

I very much admire the use of the form, and the sense of barely restrained fury and grief. I’m reminded of the parents in “People Like That Are the Only People Here” (the coping mechanism feels similar even if the emotion is quite different) and “Incarnations of Burned Children.”

Nice work on Fireside‘s part, formatting this. I wonder how accessible it is to people using screen readers though? I imagine they probably figured something out.