Robin Black‘s collection If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This (Random House, 2010) was a finalist in the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize. She is at work on her first novel and will be the Distinguished Visiting Writer at Bryn Mawr College in 2012.
There was more good work than I could believe. I could easily have tripled, quadrupled the number of pieces I chose but my instructions were just a few. Thanks to everyone for all those wonderful words.
I love and also admire so much about this piece. The way she uses the scientific information as both metaphor and structuring device is pitch perfect. And I think this story could be used to teach people how to make a story with very little plot – almost none here – actually feel like a satisfying, fully realized story. And it’s beautiful. Just beautiful. Favorite line: “With his back to the door he paused, thumbs hooked in his belt loops, to observe the simple politics of rock-paper-scissors, of making a fist and counting to three.” And it’s all that good, really. Bravo to Sally Houtman.
Well, first of all, I love the idea. I think haiku is the perfect form for writing about a video game. It’s not just the spareness, it’s the way the form echoes the whole world of games, the way a universe exists within very particular rules. So I think it’s a perfect marriage of form and subject.And there’s a great whimsy here – though the piece doesn’t miss the potential metaphoric depth of Mario’s journey. I would love this all by itself: “Leap over the abyss/If you are big you can break boxes/Sometimes there is something in them”
This is such a moving piece- moving in the way that it conveys with great economy the whole tragedy of . . . it all. The fleeting nature of life, the futility of trying to defy that, the horror of war. Time, time, time. There is an eloquence here and an elegance, but no pulling of punches. Somehow, for all its bloodlessness and odd abstraction, the story that leads to these lines is as evocative a description of war as many I have read: “None of us ever listened to this. That would be pouring the war back in through your ears.” Gorgeous and so intelligent.
There are so many lines here that I could pull as exquisite. Like: “The dead never live up to expectations.” And: “A dull widow, weary of the mourners,/
newly aware, but unconcerned, that it’s possible/to die without consequence.” But it’s the whole poem that really captures the wistful, longing of the living for the dead, the wish that they set some kind of immortal example, the realization that perhaps they were just us, after all.
There is so much here. It’s like a novel in a few hundred words – with no sense of being a fragment though, it is whole. I love especially the exact capture of a certain kind of parental desperation, when everything has gone in whatever the opposite of “according to plan” is, the wisdom behind the line: “’People have to do something,’ I said, ‘For you, this was the right thing.’” The bigheartedness of this piece, containing as it does, disappointment, compassion, love, resentment all jumbled together, all reliant on one another, all endlessly human.
Editor’s Eye is a new blog series that aims to highlight noteworthy work that might have slipped through the cracks of Fictionaut’s automated list of recommendations. Every two weeks, a distinguished visiting editor scours the site for lost treasures and picks outstanding stories.