Marigolds and Brevity

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

Somewhere in the story The Day I Became a Marigold this is written:

The Marigolds celebrated on their front lawn. We’d watch from our porches as they turned and turned in unison and then lit fires and roasted pigs and ate with paper plates. The Marigolds sat in the grass. One Marigold drifted out of the sky on a parachute, landed on the highest eave, and declared, “I’m mayor now.”

The Marigolds were many and elusive. I went to school with one of them. He’d tell me on our walks home about the Trips, the Uncles, and the Oddities in various rooms, and when I told him about mine he said, “I wish I were you.”

In the first paragraph the Marigolds celebrate on the lawn; they dance; they eat “on” paper plates, not “with,” which is a mistake. Anyway, “turned and turned in unison” is an image of absence–treating an image that goes unwritten in the text, as Marigolds making random motions in the grass makes little sense. And the line was written ahead of the image, which is a habit that I’ve become accustomed to and which took time to develop since May. Another instance, which I would describe as a “sharp” image, is that of the parachutist landing on “the highest eave,” a pretty good trick for someone on a parachute, I suppose, but for a Marigold, probably doable.

Writing short short stories is not about writing short short stories for the sake of being short or as a kind of genre hack, as “I went to the store, got my hand stuck in a pile of melons, and a quick thinking clerk yanked me free, and so I kissed him” is a brief narrative but not all that compelling. It’s about writing stories that compel and that work within a constrained space and time. Within that constrained space and time, they enclose a narrative and its world and necessary populations. Nor are they the result of some issue with attention span, as one one would need accuse the Italian poets of some cognitive disfunction in the 1600s for writing sonnets.


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