Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bartleby Snopes/Matthew Falk/Sarah Black/Flash Fiction Review

Nominating Editor: Nate Tower

Bartleby Snopes is a magazine that publishes new works of fiction once per week. Each month we publish between 5 and 15 stories. At the end of the month the readers of the site vote for the story of the month. Every six months we collect our favorite stories in a magazine available for free as a .pdf download on the website. On January 5th we released our first issue of the semi-annual magazine format.

The first thing I look for is a story I haven't read or a character I have never met. Matthew Falk's story gave me both of those things. It seems that each month I receive several versions of the same old story with the same characters, only the stories have different titles and different authors. If the story doesn't feel new, or at least told in a fresh way, then it doesn't make it out of the slush pile. A few other things that virtually guarantee rejection:

1. Third person present tense. I am not sure when this movement began, but I don't understand it, and it just doesn't work 95% of the time.

2. Stories about struggling male-female relationships. This theme has been explored in virtually every way.

3. Unrealistic or boring dialogue.

4. Stories that try too hard to deliver a message. Tell the story and let the reader get the message.

I read every word of every story that is submitted. Sometimes a writer will surprise me, and I like that. I don't like stories that try to surprise me. It needs to happen naturally.

Nominated Flash Fiction: "Auspex Usurped" - Matthew Falk

Reviewed: by Sarah Black

Matthew Falk has written a gorgeous tale of a fallen god, a myth of such delicate and charming language it begs to be read aloud. The title, "Auspex Usurped," refers to the Roman name for an augur, or diviner, one who watches the birds for omens, and in the course of this story, the diviner is accidentally dethroned from his park bench.

What does a god need to be a god? He needs to believe in his godliness, and he needs worshipers. The old man had worshipers, a trail of unhappy souls offering five dollar bills in exchange for his magic words. But something happens, a stranger wanders in, and his belief in his own power, and place, collapses like a pyramid of tumbling acrobats. He trudges home in wet boots, defeated without battle.

Contrast the god with the human in the story, an old woman who spills her apples in the elevator, chases after them like a fool, but remains cheerful, remains human. When a god is made a fool, he feels only shame. A human has no pedestal to fall from.

The language makes "Auspex Usurped" a particular delight for me. The rollicking round words of the title sound like your mouth feels, licking an ice cream cone on a hot July afternoon; and then comes the list of the old man’s ailments, from arthritis to zoomorphism. Like a juggler tossing more and more balls into the air, Mr. Falk gives us twenty-five ailments in ABC order. I won’t tell you which letter is missing.

My son read this list out loud over his bacon pancake at Moon’s Diner this morning, and he was giggling by halitosis. I think you will be, too. Or like me, you’ll read this and be happy to be human, chasing after your spilled apples, eyes on the ground, and not the clouds.

Reviewer's Bio:

Sarah Black is a flash fiction writer living in Idaho. Her stories can be found in Flashquake, Everyday Fiction, Word Riot, Slow Trains, and several other online literary magazines. She has recently started Bannock Street Books, a micropress publishing illustrated flash fiction anthologies.

Thanks for visiting Five Star Literary Stories and reading about this flash fiction.

No comments: