This story of language and meaning, invention and deterioration, quietly drew me in and kept me happily captive. By Fictionaut standards this is a long story. It glows rather than flashes, but illuminates nevertheless.
Advanced Fiction student Tasmina (formerly Rachael Smith) dares to stud her assignments with made-up words. Professor Woody, secretly in awe of her audacity, meanwhile struggles to make his disintegrating marriage “better”. All his life he has relied on language and inflection for effective expression. His wife’s parting shot to him-
“Better,” she repeated blankly. “What does that word even mean?”
This story explores the limitations of language and celebrates its potential. Spaces between words and spaces between people are examined with thoughtfulness and grace. “Leave Off Doves” is a subdued, beautifully written story.
I would have to say that my favorite story on Fictionaut (thus far) has been “Peach” by Katrina Gray. The comment I left at the time was “You got the southern sensibilities about telling the truth to people’s faces down pact in this story. And I too loved the dialogue in here.” True enough, southern people do their best to avoid all conflict if at all possible, and love gossip. Katrina’s story did something I’ve been struggling to do for some time: find two characters who are able to speak to you on the page. She accomplished this mighty feat of writing where one can see Lana and Peter fighting in a room somewhere in the mind’s eye. She also reminds us how something so simple like a photograph of a peach can be such a big deal if it pleases the soul of another. If I ever accomplish these feats in my own writing, then I’ll have truly found my voice.
An early favorite of mine, having joined Fictionaut this past September, is Sam Nam’s “I Use Commas Like Ninja Stars.” It was the first story of Nam’s I read and it was full of some key ingredients I require for extraordinary literature – a style apart from nearly anything that came before it, a unique voice telling the story of outsiders adjusting, or not adjusting, in a way we’ve never seen before, and a quiet power through which a huge theme is shared simply and understandably.
An easy target for bravery in style, it is the movement from the inarticulate narrator, laboring along with his “foreign mouth,” on through the more schooled and uniform, language savvy new narrator that is most exceptional in this story. Nam’s ability with language, which is so much the centerpiece for the story itself, is what brought me back to the piece time and again. And with each return trip, I found more to admire and respect about “I Use Commas Like Ninja Stars,” another aspect of it to enjoy, to share with others.
Fictionaut Faves, a series in which Fictionaut members recommend stories on the site, is edited by Marcelle Heath, a fiction writer, freelance editor, and assistant editor for Luna Park. She lives in Portland, Oregon.