Monday, August 25, 2008

decomP/Patrick Kelling/Randall Brown/ Short Story Review

Nominating Editor: Jason Jordan

decomP is an online literary magazine that is updated monthly. We have been in existence since April 2004 and we were originally called Decomposition Magazine. We publish prose, poetry, art, and solicited book reviews. Recently we've begun incorporating author interviews, too.

What I look for in a story when I'm reading decomP submissions is an intriguing title and gripping first sentence hook. My attention span is much shorter when I'm reading online, so if I'm interested enough to make it through a short story in one sitting—aside from flash, of course—then I know the writer's done his job. The only two reasons I ever finish reading a submission from start to finish are because either I want to find out what happens, or I like the protagonist(s) so much that I'm willing to follow them anywhere, if not both.

After reading Patrick Kelling's "Propping Frisco" for the first time, I knew I had a great story on my hands from someone I'd never read before. The title made me curious, as well as the opening line, and while I was first annoyed with the protagonist's OCD tendencies like counting numbers of steps, I quickly realized—nearly in the same thought—that they're necessary character traits. After all, a prop guy who's great at what he does seems like he'd have to obsess over specific details, and there are plenty of those in Kelling's decomP debut.

Nominated Short Story: "Propping Frisco" - Patrick Kelling

Review: by Randall Brown

"Authenticity," Patrick Kelling's narrator tells us in "Popping Frisco" from decomP, "is a serious business." Fortunately, for us, Kelling has fun with this idea, as his narrator struggles to ensure the correctness of the circa 1880 details on the set of a show populated by "those roistered bastards" who don’t quite share his desire to get it right.

The prop room, the costumes, the actors in and out of character—all these Kelling puts to clever use. Kelling's own authentic use of details—as in his description of the transformation of apple juice into moonshine, a miracle many of us might pray for—adds to the fun and originality of this piece. Each moment and each aspect of the story has a charged, urgent freshness and weight. Kelling manages to keep his tale light without being lightweight, no easy feat to pull off.

The arrival of a bottle that has the characteristics of an 1886 glass rather than of one in 1876 sets the narrative in motion. Working to cover this error he's convinced someone will discover, the narrator tells us, "If Paula held [this bottle] in a certain way, no one would notice as she broke it over some extra's head. I would tell her to watch this detail, to hold it so that the seam faced away from the cameras. But she wouldn't listen; she never did." Getting people to listen and to notice, to even care a little, becomes the narrator's impossible challenge, as he goes from prop room to set, down the streets of a Frisco long since vanished.

That bottle's seam might symbolize the fragile existence of one so dedicated to authenticity in a world that lacks the same interest and commitment. Everything and everyone around him threatens the illusion he's hoping to create, at the same time they themselves lack some necessary substance, creating what the narrator considers to be a universe full of "out of place pieces of shit." And what of our narrator, the hero of this tale, who confronts the show's star Christie in her "baby blue, long polonaise bodice" and tries to get her to see all that's being lost along with her pearl-handled Colt Bisleys? Each step takes him closer to that revelatory moment awaiting him at the end.

Kelling's mix of authenticity and comedy, along with the narrator's attempts to hold his shit together, make for one rip-roarin' tale, one that had this reader bustin' at the seams throughout.

Reviewer's Bio:

Randall Brown holds an MFA from Vermont College. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cream City Review, Hunger Mountain, Connecticut Review, Saint Ann's Review, Evansville Review, Laurel Review, Dalhousie Review, upstreet, and others. He is the author of the award-winning collection Mad to Live (Flume Press 2008) and on-staff at Smokelong Quarterly.

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

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