Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I just recieved my first issue of One Story in the mail today, and read it. The story is The Arrival. The author is Robin Romm. After reading the first two pages, I wanted very much to put the story down. After deciding to continue, to read to the end, I wanted very much to dislike the story. I succeeding in both reading the story to completion, and disliking the story.

I was, however, moved by it.

Now, some people might argue that one can not dislike a story by which one is moved. You're wrong. I just did.

I have submitted two stories to One Story, and will not ever submit another story to this journal. I understand what kind of fiction they like: something I'd call, loosely, literary melodrama. Literary melodrama uses traditional forms to avoid any possible cerebral interaction with the reader, instead relying exclusively on emotional response as a medium to convey value.

In other words, stories about cancer.

I may write a story about cancer one day. If I do, I will submit it to One Story. If you're writing a story about cancer, it's okay to refer to an animal's energy level as "electric." Also, it's okay to say this line: the feel of cold sand under your toes.

I wish more stories tried to show me something new, rather than ask me to dredge up familiar sensations in order to do the work the author should be doing: making me experience something. Sure, I can be guided to dredge up familiar sensations which culminate in some passing catharsis. Hollywood moves do this to me frequently. Yay.

19 Comments:

Blogger Tao Lin said...

one story has rejected all my stories

robin romm is in the issue of kitchen sink that i am in right now, i read that she wrote the story very fast and didn't want to read the story, and didn't

i read another story about cancer from one story, it was about cancer being really sad

1:32 PM  
Blogger Tao Lin said...

this post is great, shit-talking about one story

more people come shit-talk

1:33 PM  
Blogger Tao Lin said...

i linked

1:34 PM  
Blogger Reader of Cute, Happy Books said...

Cancer is such an easy way out.

1:41 PM  
Blogger CLAY BANES said...

The Dutch say to each other, "Get cancer."

It's very rude.

Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain was very melodramatic, but I liked it a lot.

6:04 PM  
Blogger Reader of Cute, Happy Books said...

I'm not saying melodrama can't be liked. I'm saying being moved by something doesn't mean it's good.

6:28 PM  
Blogger Karin said...

Has anyone ever read a story where you've disliked the characters so much, or you've decided you, in a sense, morally disagree with the message or tone being conveyed?

I never know what to make of stories like that. They "move" me, but move me to anger or disgust. Kind of like that movie, "About Schmidt." I found everyone in it and everything that happened so despicable that I hated the movie, even though it held my attention the whole way through.

6:44 AM  
Blogger Reader of Cute, Happy Books said...

I think it's one thing when one's negative emotional response is purposively triggered by the author. Narrative art has a long tradition of portraying morally reprehensible characters. You're not supposed to like them.

It's another thing to use cheap melodramatic tricks like cancer to make your audience care about your character.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Karin said...

Yeah, but are you supposed to hate morally reprehensible characters through and through? Shouldn't we see some shades of gray, especially if this character is the main one?

I like stories that cause me to sympathize with evil people, like the movie 'Monster' for example.

(Don't know why I'm referencing movies only.)

But I agree that usually in journals and in workshops cancer == melodrama.

12:28 PM  
Blogger Tao Lin said...

i like stories where the author knew ten years ago that 'morals' are arbitrary, and has lived ten years with that knowledge and now must write a story

3:07 PM  
Blogger Tao Lin said...

braveheart was melodramatic but i liked that i think

3:08 PM  
Blogger (d.d.c.) said...

here is my official statement on cancer and stories involving cancer (if you like, you may replace the word 'cancer' with 'bulemia,' 'aids,' 'bird flu,' 'ebola,' 'teenage preganancy,' 'war' 'getting broken up with' or 'being eaten alive by the undead'):

don't write a story about that.

and don't write a story that involves that, but is really about a daughter learning that she truly loved her mother, but now it's too late and she looks sadly through a frost-covered window.

actually, if you want to do that, go ahead, but just know that you will bore me. and my opinion may not seem important to you, but my opinion means the world to me. i value my opinion very highly, and if my opinion tells me that you're the type of writer who writes a thing like that, i will most likely not read any more of your stories.

the problem is not cancer (or whatever), per se (and you should probably not use the phrase 'per se' either). it's that cancer is a vague thing, and vague things are not the kinds of things to write stories about. i'd much prefer you to write about non-vague things, such as the mother's highschool ring which the daughter has been eyeing on the counter all through her death watch, waiting for her chance to get her hands on it before her sister does, because she'd like to hock it to pay that month's digital cable bill.

4:01 PM  
Blogger Reader of Cute, Happy Books said...

Well I think that's more of an audience issue than a literary one. Nothing can "force" one to respond in a black/white way.

4:03 PM  
Blogger (d.d.c.) said...

that said, 'do not disturb,' by am homes, is a story that involves cancer, and it's a good story.

but i'd argue that it's not actually a story about cancer. i'd argue that it's actually a story about a kinda nice/kinda weak guy, who has a wife who's a bitch. and she happens to have cancer.

4:05 PM  
Blogger (d.d.c.) said...

i can 'force' somebody.

just you watch me.

4:07 PM  
Blogger Tao Lin said...

dennis, something about the parenthesis in your name scares me, i feel like you're about to sneak attack my throat, and actually it's exciting

3:01 PM  
Blogger (d.d.c.) said...

tao, it's called stealth commenting.

9:50 PM  
Blogger The Man Who Couldn't Blog said...

Ah, the cancer story. Lorrie Moore's "People Like That Are The Only People Here" is a pretty good cancer story.

That AM Homes story is pretty good.

But, I think Dave Shaw's "King of Spain" is my very favorite cancer story. It's a cancer story with a chimpanzee:

"Lately, Walter has been hard to live with. He's drinking again, for starters. The carpet all the way to the TV is littered with dented up Coors Lite cans and orange peel carcasses and the odd Slim Jim wrapper. (Some of the Coors Lite cans are mine.) He's left his crapped-in underwear warming on the lampshade again and he's been pissing on the braided ficus. The couch smells like monkey feet."

It goes on. The narrator has terminal bone cancer, and only a hundred or so days left to live. And, he doesn't know where the chimp came from. The chimp just showed up one day.

In the final scene, they have Burger King crowns on. And then they lose them.

You can find the story in Kelly Link's Trampoline anthology.

(Kelly Link had a story in One-Story.)

We do all die of fucking cancer these days. I think that may be the only defense of the cancer story, that we're all tumor-ridden and falling apart.

11:37 AM  
Blogger zeldafitz said...

I think cancer is "in" right now. Cancer is clearly the new literary vogue. Zzzzzzzz. And One Story has also rejected everything I have submitted. But I am not bitter.

11:22 AM  

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