Friday, October 2, 2009
Wag's Revue/Raleigh Holiday/Scott Doyle/Short Story Review
Nominating Editor: Sandra Allen
Wag's Revue is an online-only literary quarterly that debuted this spring. Following a successful and controversial first issue, we've continued to pioneer this web-based literary magazine, which aspires to marry the freedoms of the Internet with the strictures of a traditional printed quarterly, creating something entirely new (a 'wag,' if you will). It's an exciting solution, I think, to print's demise, and a good read for anyone interested in the future of the American literary quarterly. Issue 2 features an interview with T.C. Boyle, perfect anagrams of Shakespeare sonnets by poet K. Silem Mohammad, nonfiction by Stephen Elliott and more.
I'd like to nominate Raleigh Holiday's most recent story in our publication, titled "Artificial Light" for review. In this story of a vengeful puppet setting fire to her television host boss, Holiday dives into a world that is at once absurd and incredibly haunting. Told from the perspective of the cameraman who captured the blaze on film, the hilarity of this short piece is underscored by a deep, human (puppet) tragedy. In my opinion, few could pull off such a feat of such wit and grace as Raleigh Holiday.
Nominated Short Story: "Artificial Light" - Raleigh Holiday
Reviewed by Scott Doyle:
This isn’t the kind of story I normally lean towards as a reader, but I was won over by its infectious verve and loopy imagination.
One of the reasons the story succeeds is because it quickly establishes a certain tone and never strays from that: it’s a story that knows what it is. We are immediately plunged into the set of "Murphy’s Puppet Pirate Hour." Captain Murphy, the host, flirts inappropriately with the puppet cast. By the end of the second paragraph, one of them, Sissy Slimbritches, has retaliated and set the Captain on fire. That the reader doesn’t resist or question the absurd goings-on (and from here things just get weirder) is testament to the power of confidence and velocity in fiction. The reader is most suggestible in that opening paragraph or two: the writer can get away with just about anything if it is done with speed and confidence.
I won’t ruin the story by trying to summarize, but Holliday packs a surprising number of turns into three pages. "Artificial Light" is entertaining and quite funny, and though it’s hardly a ‘statement’ story, it does seem to touch on the nature of staged illusion, depending on how one chooses to read it.
Although velocity is one of the story’s chief attributes, the writer knows when to slow down. There are a number of well-turned descriptions, including that of the puppet Sissy’s painted lashes “flapping with the celerity of a hummingbird’s wing.” For all its speed, the story never feels rushed. And, important for a story that could wear on the reader if over-extended, the author knows when to get out.
This is a story written with great energy, confidence, and precision.
Scott Doyle writes and reviews short stories in Los Angeles. He has stories in print in New Madrid and River Oak Review, and online at Night Train, Sotto Voce, and 580 Split. He reviews short story collections for The Short Review, and blogs at Lit Scribbler.
Thanks for visiting Five Star Literary Stories and reading about this short story.