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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fiction Dismantled (Super Awesome Bonus Edition)

Photo by Todd McLellan
See his Disassembly collection here.
As an intern for the Piper House, I read many stories submitted to Hayden's Ferry Review. When I'm six stories deep, running on coffee fumes and chocolate-covered espresso beans, form stories ignite my curiosity and pull me in. There is something attractive about a story that looks like a list, or a series of dictionary entries, or even a water bill. Postmodern experimental fiction allows readers to experience the emotional range of the traditional narrative through a fresh perspective while allowing writers to explore and experiment in their craft with a new flexibility.

Okay, so I may have gotten a bit off track over these past few weeks. First, it was the Desert Nights Rising Stars Conference in February that tore my attention away from this post. (Which, by the way, was awesomely inspiring and amazingly fantastically fun! If you didn't have the chance to attend this year's conference, I highly recommend putting it on your to do list for next year.) Next, it was midterms, and then it was Spring Break. But excuses aside, I have been coming across some great form stories to share. So, as an extra special bonus to make up for my tardiness, I am offering up two great form stories for your reading pleasure!

I absolutely love this Todd McLellan photograph of a dismantled phone falling. It is just vintage enough to be nostalgic and romantic. But at the same time, it is also contemporary enough that it adds a new twist to remembering the days when everyone had a home telephone. The first story I want to talk about also takes cues from one of the oldest literary forms, the epistolary form. Kelly Link published her version of the epistolary story in Fence's Fall/Winter 98' issue. The nostalgic mood of Link's epistolary story, "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose," evokes the romantic longing that exists only in love letters never sent or received. Best of all, Link is not hesitant to break this traditional form. Where replies to these love letters might have been, Link instead places blocks of narration. This puts a unique twist on the classical the form.   

Bonus Round:
Photo by Todd McLellan
See his Disassembly collection here.
Remember these push mowers? My Dad used to tell me horror stories about having to use one of these to mow my grandparents property. A completely necessary but tedious task. He would say, "The trick is keeping the blades sharp. There's nothing worse than pushing around a dull mower." I couldn't agree more. With fiction, words are blades. Sharp diction will keep a reader interested. When I think of the writers tool belt, I like to imagine an extra special pocket where the dictionary or thesaurus would go. After all, those are the tools that keep language exciting and appealing.

This next story takes note of the importance of the dictionary and uses that as the form for the narrative. Kevin Wilson, offers sharp language in the definitions of laconic method through near misses, in his short story, "The Dead Sister Handbook: A Guide for Sensitive Boys". Featured in Wilson's collection of short stories, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth as well as in Diagram's 6.1 issue. (Diagram is an online journal that publishes experimental and edgy fiction, like Wilson, along with several other amazing authors. If you like these stories you will love this journal.)


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