Monday, June 22, 2009

Monkeybicycle/Amy Guth/Craig Terlson/Flash Fiction Review

Nominating editor: Steven Seighman

is a literary journal that lives both online and in print. The Web site is updated twice weekly (Mondays and Fridays), and we put out two issues of the print edition each year. The content on the Web site is often funny, often short, and always entertaining. Once in a while, there's a more serious piece in there as well. We love reading just about anything and really try to mix it up a bit. The print editions are often the opposite of that—more serious with a splash of humor thrown in on occasion. Our fifth issue, however, was all humor. Guest-edited by our web editor, Eric Spitznagel, it really pushed the envelope with some saucy pieces from well-known comedians like Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman, and David Cross.

Over the years, Monkeybicycle has been consistent in presenting entertaining and well-written material to its reading audience. Twice, we've had stories (once from the Web site and once from the print edition) included in the annual Best American Nonrequired Reading anthology, and have had several "notable" stories in there as well. We hope to continue putting out the highest-quality material for everyone who is interested, well into the upcoming years. Monkeybicycle has recently become an imprint of Dzanc Books, which makes this much easier to do through additional funding and promotion. We love what we do, love what our writers do, and are happy to give it to the world.

"Feet in Socks" was part of a holiday marathon we ran on our Web site in 2007. There was a different story up each day in December, always relating somehow to Christmas or whatever else was celebrated. Often, the stories were parodies, or at least funny. One piece was even a cartoon. But "Feet in Socks" stands out because it is none of those things. Coming from an incredibly talented writer, this story is both heart-wrenching and heart-warming, all at once. It tells a story of love through the years—the ups and downs. And what better way to convey what the holidays are all about?

Nominated Flash Fiction: "Feet in Socks" - Amy Guth

Reviewed: by Craig Terlson

The deathbed scene has been a bit of a cliché in fiction for a long time. Unfortunately, this type of scene often comes off as forced, melodramatic, tired, and worst of all, lacking in truth. “Feet in Socks” is a welcome exception to all those overdone and overwrought story moments. An added bonus, and it’s an impressive one, is that she does it in less than 800 words.

Flash fiction at its best captures a moment in time, something brought forward, crystalline, to the reader’s eyes—but it is usually just a moment. Guth is able to expand that to an entire lifetime, which is what most amazes me about this story. She begins at the deathbed, but right away there is something in the voice that tells me this is not the same old scene—maybe it is the narrator’s realization that wanting her husband to die by candlelight was both melodramatic and comforting. The further contemplation of this light signaled to me that another type of story was about to be told.

The use of the other character, a nurse, is the perfect device to tell the fuller story of this couple’s life. Moving into backstory in fiction can often result in a loss of tension, and a molasses dragging of pace. But here again, Guth’s voice first transitions seamlessly into the past and then paints a vivid picture of how the couple met.

“Beautiful under my thick glasses and my knobby elbows and knees. Beautiful beneath my frizzy hair and thin lips. Arthur, let us not kid ourselves, couldn't see past any of these things, nor could he see past his large-breasted girlfriend, Joyce. I wanted to not hate her.”

I am in awe of these four sentences. I’ve read whole chapters that don’t show this much depth of character. Maybe I am being hyperbolic here, but it is only to say that when compression in short fiction works, and works really well, it is Hemingway’s iceberg theory on steroids.

As their story unfolds I find myself caring deeply for both of the characters. I think this is because of the truth that is evoked. The description of the wife, then a young girl, picturing a sexy scene about to take place, only to find the reality to be more plain, yet more deeply satisfying, resonates with anyone who has seen an early love affair grow into a long term relationship.

It is this connection with the characters that gives power to the closing line. In a scant few paragraphs I know this couple, I know how they began, I sensed how they lived, and now as she sits by her husband’s bedside, I want to weep with her.

Finally, I am drawn back to the seemingly simple title, “Feet in Socks.” There is something so very poignant about this; it speaks of their beginnings, of her just being “another neighborhood girl, just another feet in socks.” The power of story is one that even the simplest narrative, when told with truth, can produce something so much more than what appears on the page. To him, she was not just another feet in socks, and to us this story is not just another deathbed scene.

Reviewer's Bio:

Craig Terlson's fiction has appeared in Carve, Hobart, Bound Off, Smokelong Quarterly and others. He was named finalist in the Glimmer Train 2005 New Writers Award. Wigleaf named his story, "Night Birds," one of the top 50 online stories of 2007. He is currently working on two novels at the same time, which he is not sure is a good idea.

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

1 comment:

little miss gnomide said...

Wow. That's a great review. Amy Guth is so adept at using every, single word to its fullest.