This digging for stories and poems that shine quietly on Fictionaut has been a pleasure. I read over two weeks and, as asked, chose pieces that were not on the Recommended list. I’m sorry I couldn’t read everything on the site, really. Maybe someday I will. Someone who probably did read your work and supported you with his comments is Matthew Paust, who gave his attention to every damn story I opened. He is a remarkably generous man who behaves exactly like someone who gets the huge importance of feedback to a writer, even if it’s just a “Kilroy was here” three-word comment. (Google explains this phrase if you are too young to remember it. It was still around when I was very, very small. Tiny.) Thank you, Matt. And thanks to all the readers who take the time to let the author know that you’ve read their work. Don’t be shy, writers. As they say way too often in the media, join the conversation.
I don’t think I’m much good at critical analysis of writing. My taste in literature runs the gamut from Henry James to Lydia Davis, Wallace Stevens to C.D. Wright. Good writing is nourishment for me and I am astonished by how well the writers on Fictionaut fill me up every time I come by here to read. Just like you, I “select,” based on my own mysterious process. So I will not try to analyze these authors’ works, but simply share my responses to the few pieces I could choose for the purposes of Editor’s Eye, and in some cases I’ll borrow from classical music to help me out.
Emoji Problems” by S. Asher Sand is, I believe, a failed relationship saga. I’m not absolutely sure about that, but I don’t care. I’ve read his compact and witty love story several times and with each reading I become more adept at learning the narrator’s mysterious (for me) language. This is life at full-tilt told in emoji code, and the reader gets to crack it. Here’s a sample, but the exchange I thought the funniest I will leave for you to read when you have the minute it takes to read the flash. It may take you longer to understand it, but you’ll enjoy the time.
“I gave her a full moon with face looking to the side.
She gave me a snail, a sunset over buildings, a bikini.
I gave her a dress, a glass of wine, a love hotel.
She gave me kids. Here they were, two loudly crying faces. She gave me that.”
“Mine” by Gary Moshimer gives us a boatload of emotional action in a little over 700 words. Gary’s written this short fiction with enough depth to leave me feeling satisfied and uplifted. A relationship develops in a few paragraphs without fuss and with certainty. This flash has gravitas. I found it difficult to select a sample from this work because the words so belong together. They move us expertly from one heart-shift to another. Read this bit:
“She opened my door with a nail. She pawed my crystals with her big red hands. She squeezed my arm and pulled me outside to her big red convertible. She drove too fast and smoked.”
You know how the narrator feels about her don’t you? And in no time, you’ll know much, much more.
“Suburban Snomance” by Carl Santoro is flash, is poetry, is bright allegro. I’ll just go ahead and gush. Carl takes a moment and shares it with lyricism, humor, and a resounding word-sound track. He showed me what is possible when an artist “sees” a fleeting winter spectacle and has the chops to translate it for us so that we share his delight. There are only 189 words, but they set the scene, soar with it, and let it gently subside. Nice. A snippet from the quiet enough opening:
“From my large kitchen window, as I slowly raised the blinds, I watched as at the foot of my driveway, somewhere behind the high snowy mounds, the pink dusk sky suddenly became filled with an arched fountain of snow-sprays…”
From that point on things get riotous.
“Three Sundays at the Grove” by Dallas Woodburn is a leisurely adagio, longer than most of the pieces I tend to read on Fictionaut. Every time I am drawn toward a longer work on this site, I am rewarded for my attention because the writers are so good. There are more characters in this story than in the others I mention here and more time elapses. Dallas focuses on two people, one who founders and one who triumphs in a surprising and touching final scene. “The Grove” is an outdoor shopping mall in West Hollywood, which is a rich setting for sounds, tastes, smells, and as a background for a grand range of emotional tones. As in musical adagios there are thematic resolutions, there is one in this lovely story, too.
Here is a favorite paragraph:
“That was twenty-one years ago, and the Hindi phase was long gone—as was her father. Still, Deepti was left with two constant reminders: her vegetarianism and her name, Charusheela Deepti, roughly translated to “beautiful jewel full of light.” These two things, combined with her honey-freckled skin, almond eyes, and unruly wiry curls, made Deepti feel a part of many groups—part Asian, part black, part Hindi—and yet not really a part of any group. She was a one-woman species. Unclassifiable.”
“Checkboxer” by Mark Zarvox: humor? horror? science fiction? satire? Obviously, I have trouble describing this flash, but oh, god, I hope it’s not prediction. It’s a lightening flash of 600 or so words that will strike postmodern, atonal chords (to beat the music thing to death) with you, I betcha. Just read it. Feel free to drop me a message if you think I’m nuts, but I don’t think you will. I’ll stand by my recommendation. Here’s a morsel:
“Dennis was surprised by the knock that came to his door the next day. His desire was to not answer but there was a fear that coiled and roiled in his belly and made him go do it. It was the police, as he feared… or maybe he had always been looking forward to this moment in a way.”
“Gray Tail” by Lucinda Kempe is a spare, surprising, funny, sad poem in five stanzas. There are only 151 words, but Lucinda only needs that many to tell her story, share honest images that will endure for me. I once took a workshop with a fairly famous poet/teacher who told me that I should leave my dog out of a poem the group was critiquing. Why the hell would I do that? I thought, but didn’t have the nerve to say. Maybe now I’d speak my mind. As far as I’m concerned, one of the best things about humans (okay, not all of them) is that their hearts have as much room as they do for animals. Lucinda’s poem did the job for me. My heart sang.
“The tip flicks, shiver of anticipation
As dinner arrives on the porch. “
Thank you for reading. I appreciate it. Let me know what you thought. xxoononnie
Nonnie Augustine was a professional dancer with a B.F.A. from The Juilliard School, co-founder of The Albuquerque Dance Theatre, and an instructor at the University of New Mexico. She has been published online and in print and was the poetry editor of The Linnet’s Wings from 2007 until 2014. He poetry collection, One Day Tells its Tale to Another, was named by Kirkus Review to “Best Books of 2013” and in 2014 she won the 16th Glass Woman Prize. Her website and blog are at www.nonnieaugustine.com and at www.augustinesconfessions.blogspot.com respectively.