Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Chinaman's Chance," by Tai Dong Huai

If a family of a different race adopts you, how do you begin to think during the teen years about sensitive issues like identity? The narrator in this story is a young teen, a girl born in China adopted by an American family. Her adoptive mom teaches English to a Chinese woman who has come to the house for lessons. The physical details like hair, nose, and thin frame provide a context for something shared (“…this woman I share a country with”) but not necessarily embraced. It is when the narrator overhears the lesson in verb conjugation that the subtext of history and heritage illuminate irony in the moment. Read it here at Verbsap.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Boots," by Pamela Gay

In the vein of Robert Olen Butler’s Had A Good Time: Stories from American Postcards, this story too evokes a life between the lines; in this case, the tension between what the postcard writer thought and what she wrote. The visual element of the displayed postcard, the actual handwriting and the postmark, lend an aura of reality to the fiction. The dreamy quality of the prose and the suppressed emotion echo the blurry watercolor of the postcard illustration. The 1945 postmark and an unnamed voice, which refers to Japan’s surrender, places the story in history. Most appealing is the device of using a relic to evoke enough particulars of a life that capture the reader’s imagination. I love the line, “Some nights she’d turn in her sleep and curl into him to find he had his boots on.” There are numerous curious elements in this flash fiction. Enjoy it here at Grey Sparrow Press.

Monday, August 16, 2010

"My Father's Paradox," by Marko Fong

I find this story appealing because it takes me back to my student life in Boston during the late 60’s and early 70’s amidst the turmoil of the Vietnam War. But the challenge of this tantalizing story is large; can the writer deliver a story with compelling character motivation and dramatic movement under the weight of recent and controversial history? The unnamed fictional narrator (a stand-in for Robert Ellsberg, son of Daniel Ellsberg) attempts to understand the series of choices made by his father. A central metaphor is conjured from a decision theory problem of choice and statistical certainty. The real paradox appears that the metaphor doesn’t illuminate exploration of the emotional center surrounding the father-son dilemma. The facts of a life, in this case, tend to outweigh the fictional magic of the story. Read it here in Eclectica and decide for yourself.

Monday, August 9, 2010

"Between the Words," by Robert Earle

With digital processing technologies at my fingertips, I admit I have become hooked on new versions and updates. In spite of this enthusiasm, I catch myself denigrating my hand-held gadgets to the role of mere memory aids, like hearing aids or glasses. Then a fleeting thought will brush my mind with a teasing question, are the digital versions of my observations and thoughts extensions of my memory and imagination, or will my digital version of self give rise to a digitized me? Earle’s story characters are engaging with their shared history and their meeting in the ubiquitous world of Starbucks and Ipads. For a surprising convergence, read the story here at Prick of the Spindle.