Monday, June 30, 2008

DOGZPLOT/Elizabeth Ellen/Rob Pierce/Short Story Review

Nominating Editor: Barry Graham

DOGZPLOT began publishing flash fiction stories, 200 words or less, right around the halfway point of 2007 and started running longer fiction and poetry later in the year. We publish erratic, playful, honest, original, disgraceful, hopelessly optimistic, dirty, beautiful, ugly, over the top writing from a wide variety of authors representing all types of literary backgrounds. We like description. We like voice. We are more interested in good storytelling than precision, than fancy words and metaphors and concepts that sound real pretty but don’t necessarily inform the reader. We like subtle, seemingly simplistic writing that blows your fucking head apart when you take the time to excavate below the surface. We like to dig in and get dirty.

The two biggest surprises for me thus far are:

1) The amount of people who continue to read, encourage, support, and submit to us, especially those who believed in our vision from the beginning and helped shape our identity, contributors like Matthew Longo (the very first short story submission I accepted), Stefan Kiesbye, Kim Teeple, J.R. Pearson, Elizabeth Ellen, Claudia Smith, Steve Gillis, Shaindel Beers, Gina Ranalli, and many others. Thank you.

2) The diversity of the writers who submit their work, from widely published, award winning, anthologized authors to rookies seeking their first publication to up-and-comers who breathe fire to independent outsider artists, and all with one thing in common – the uncompromising desire to outrun speed and light and the space time continuum in order to remain immortal. Thank you.

DOGZPLOT is an accumulation of all of our shared desires, our need to force to light high-quality literary fiction that deals with the same themes that all great writing does: love, hate, happiness, sadness, hope, despair, etc. but does so through the eyes of fellow seekers of immortality; magicians who put their dead, still-born infants on public display, women who wake up in bed with granola bars, foot doctors who deliver babies on emu farms, and pregnant teenage alcoholics infatuated with menstrual blood and escape at all costs. And it is the latter that brings me to Elizabeth Ellen’s “Fistful.” It is everything that DOGZPLOT requires in a story and more, so much so in fact that I don’t have the words. Read it, love it, embrace it.

Nominated Short Story: "Fistful" - Elizabeth Ellen

Review: by Rob Pierce

Elizabeth Ellen’s story "Fistful" is a sex and drug-laden excursion into a world of failed hedonists turned self-destructively nihilistic. It’s about a young pregnant woman, Shannon, who from the story’s beginning harbors anger toward her physically abusive boyfriend, Trent, but also toward the rest of her world. Shannon has allowed Trent to hit her and has thus far chosen to stay in a household where this is just one of the expected abuses.

The house is filled with a group of teens and young adults who live as though nostalgic for a rockstar lifestyle that clearly doesn’t work; the movies they worship (Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Sid and Nancy, Clockwork Orange) are clear-cut cautionary tales yet these are the lifestyles Shannon and her housemates aspire to. Sex and drugs, accompanied by violence toward self and those you purportedly love.

With so many pop culture references dating from the 1980s and earlier, when a character mentions Trainspotting, which did not appear until the nineties, it is deftly established that the people in this house are not only out of place but out of time. The lives they want are such fictions that there is no hope of them occurring in the present. Of course, there was no hope of them occurring in the past either, but everyone in this house gets so stoned when they watch these movies that a song like "Comfortably Numb" is intentionally misunderstood to justify the characters’ inaction.

Shannon, whose name does not appear in this story until the midway point and then never again, is in need of self-discovery. But with the life she has lived and the friends she has chosen, that discovery is unlikely to take a therapeutic turn. The author has shown us the ugliness of Trent, as well as Shannon’s hostility toward Jenny (the teen tramp of the house) and the others who live there.

When Matty, the apparent good guy who used to live in the apartment but left because he liked Shannon and Shannon liked Trent, returns and offers to take Shannon away, it appears that the author is about to offer us a relatively happy ending of escape.

But Shannon is far too fucked up for that, and Elizabeth Ellen has too much invested in the complexities of this character to allow the exit to go smoothly. Shannon is a dark character and beautifully drawn, a victim of abuse breaking free of victimhood, and her inability to accept an easy way out is essential to who she has been and who she must become.

The difficulty lies in who Shannon is, however she got that way. And the author is far too honest to allow the reader to escape that nasty truth. Robert Frost said “the best way out is always through.” But if you’ve sunk low enough, even “through” may not get you all the way out.

Reviewer's Bio:

Rob Pierce is a writer and editor. His stories have been published in Monday Night, Zygote In My Coffee, and Swill. One of his stories will be included with the forthcoming album release by The Ancients. He can be contacted at

Thanks for visiting Five Star Literary Stories and reading about this short story.

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