Friday, July 18, 2008

Thieves Jargon/James Greco/Aaron Burch/Short Story Review

Nominating Editor: Matt DiGangi

Thieves Jargon provokes derision from drunks, students, and HR managers every day.

We published a new issue every week for three years. For the last year, we've been doing a new piece of fiction and poetry a day, Monday through Friday.

Greco's well-titled story hits me perfect right now, especially since I'm about to turn 30 and I just lost my job. The guy in this piece is familiar and gross: he reminds me of myself and who I'd never want to become. This story originally ran in Thieves Jargon's 100th issue.

Nominated Short Story: "I Tried, But it Turned Into a Deal" - James Greco

Review: by Aaron Burch

“I Tried” starts with a declaration – “There’s only one way to fry an egg.” From there, the full first three paragraphs are directions – literally, how to fry an egg – and they pull you in because of the confidence behind them. They aren’t a suggestion, or a recommendation, or even preference; there isn’t any “I think” or “if you ask me…” And then, the final direction before the eggs are done is to cover the pan. “People who don’t cover their eggs when they cook them,” the story says, “might as well be pissing up a rope.”

The heart of the story is right there from the get go. There’s some humor, confidence, an attention to detail and following directions step-by-step. From there, the story pulls back. These directions were Pete’s thoughts while he’s sitting in a restaurant, waiting for someone to show up. Everything starts to get filled in – Pete’s a bit down on his luck, has lost his job, has a yo-yoing problem with drugs and gambling and generally trying to keep his life together. And then the story pulls back again and we see a snapshot with him on a worksite with his son and their strained relationship and it feels like a story that we know well enough that when you give us the small details, we can fill in the rest. We can picture this character, we can see his son, we can build the whole movie scene of Pete sitting and waiting in this restaurant (maybe fidgeting with his hands or tapping his foot under the table).

Ultimately, the power of this story is in the framing. It opens with the confidence of Pete telling you there is only one way to fry an egg and then, through the story, we’ve seen his confidence waiver, that it yo-yos like the rest of his life and is likely something he is always trying to grab hold of and exhibit but he often lets it slip away. By the end, the meeting he has been waiting for has fallen through and he’s been ordering and eating food he can’t afford to pay for. And we see a bit – if only in a glance, and with a clearer picture – of the Pete we were first introduced to:

“While it is embarrassing to stiff on a check, there is also the confidence that he won’t get caught. Confidence is hard to come by and you take what you can get.”

Reviewer's Bio:

Aaron Burch is the editor of Hobart; writer of stories that have appeared in Phoebe, Monkeybicycle, Quick Fiction, elimae, Storyglossia, Smokelong Quarterly, and other journals; and enjoyer of arcade games including, but not limited to: Centipede, Ms. Pac Man, Frogger, and Galaga.

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

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