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Tag: matchbook

On fictions as machines

“What the would-be writer of ‘serious’ fiction (who would relegate plot and story to a place at the end of a long line headed by diction and that smooth flow of language which most college writing instructors mistakenly equate with style) seems to forget is that novels are engines, just as cars are engines; a Rolls Royce without an engine might as well be the world’s most luxurious begonia pot, and a novel in which there is no story becomes nothing but a curiosity, a little mental game.”

—Stephen King in Danse Macabre

“I like William Carlos Williams[‘] description of a poem: ‘a small (or large) machine made of words.’ Often I’m not sure what kind of machine I’m building until I start putting the thing together and fire it up. Sometimes I find I’m trying to cram toaster parts into a particle accelerator. Sometimes it works and I end up with a kick-ass toaster. Sometimes it’s a disaster and I make a super-slow accelerator.”

—Jason Marak (x)

 I’m pretty sure Roald Dahl said something about writing a long sentence axel followed by the cogwheel of a short sentence—and making it twirl. Can’t find the quote though.

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Short story: “Five-Year Plan”

“Five-Year Plan,” by Jason Marak

Appeared on matchbook, March 2016

386 words

Nicely captures a certain hopeless hope.

The author says, “I let the character’s words (rhythm, diction) do the work.” That’s probably what holds the piece together so well.

Short story: “Woman of the Week”

“Woman of the Week,” by Claire Polders

Appeared in matchbook in February 2016

449 words

A neat piece. Sort of celebrating the individuality of somebody who appears superficially uninteresting.

I might like this person

“During a period of unemployment, I made myself write a few hundred words per day by creating flash stories and essays based on entries from the Pokédex (an encyclopedia of the creatures from Pokémon). Most of these drafts amounted to little more than stream-of-consciousness diary entries, but a few were weird enough to be worth revising.”

—William Hoffacker (x)

Short story: “Will babysit for little $$$”

“Will babysit for little $$$,” by Ben White

Appeared in matchbook, January 2010

141 words

Ouch.

Short story: “Juice”

“Juice,” by Rachael Katz

Appeared here in the first half of April 2014 in matchbook

665 words

For me, this is not a story. It’s a good opening for a story: brisk, funny, full of memorable characters, rife with potential problems. (I also like to think I spotted a Baby-Sitters Club cameo, humor me on this.) I want to read the middle and end of this story. Maybe it’s a long April Fool’s thing and matchbook will post the middle and end tomorrow.

Short story: “The Armchair Detective”

“The Armchair Detective,” by Jon Steinhagen

Found here in matchbook, March 2012

941 words

Sort of an anti-story, taking apart the classic character type. The Armchair Detective exudes self-satisfaction, right down to his quirky yet dignified hobbies (here, Bezique and the Heckelphone; see also: orchids, gourmet dining, the Diogenes Club), but there’s something hollow about him. He’s an amusing curiosity rather than a whole person. I like the melancholy of this piece.

As usual with this magazine, I wish I hadn’t read the critical thoughts bit. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that it doesn’t go well beside the story. I wonder if that’s how random googlers feel, looking for fiction and chancing on this blog.

Short story: “Wife in Reverse”

“Wife in Reverse,” by Stephen Dixon

Read online at matchbook

441 words

This is such a simple and clever piece, so much so that it seems almost obvious. I’m not sure why it makes me tear up.

Is that emotional manipulation, when something simple and clever makes you want to cry? It doesn’t feel manipulative in the least. This story feels like a close relative of “The piercing chill I feel …,” by Taniguchi Buson. Salinger’s Buddy Glass claims to admire poetry that invites you to have an experience without dragging you into it, and I think that’s what’s happening in these two stories—their brevity leaves room for the reader.

Another thing that impresses me about this story is how clear it is. There are no paragraph breaks. Sometimes each new sentence takes us back in time, sometimes we stay in the same scene. It probably helps that for much of the piece, the events are less interesting for their sequence than for their particular emotional meanings.

matchbook has some excellent fiction, but I would like them better if they didn’t insist on having notes about the writing of the story right next to the story, in a column of equal width. This is not just a quirk, it’s part of the whole concept of the magazine. I find descriptions of the writing process to be boring in a way that’s actually embarrassing, like bad vacation photos where the people are also badly dressed. Also, I can’t help reading them. The notes on this story are much better than usual, though; it appears the author was unavailable for comment and the editor had to make something up.