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Monday, August 13, 2007

Reader's Diary #277- Claire Chippindale: A Matter of Letting Go

Short Story Monday!

Yes I've broke down and made it official. Monday will be devoted to yet another weekly feature here at the Book Mine Set: Short Story Monday. I've quickly come to realize that I really enjoy searching for and reading one short story a week. Primarily, I'm going to focus on short stories I can find over the Internet, a mix a both older classics and some new gems I find along the way. I'll be posting links to whatever story I'm discussing, so feel free to read them at your leisure- and if you do, be sure to let me know your thoughts!

This week's highlighted story falls under the "new gem" category. Featured in the January-February 2007 edition of This Magazine, "A Matter of Letting Go" is Claire Chippindale's first published short story.

"A Matter of Letting Go" is depressing. And while I know right away that will turn some people off, it doesn't me. It sort of reminded me of Alice Munro's stories but with a male protagonist. Perhaps it is a little unfair that all new authors get immediately compared to established people, but thems the breaks. Depending on who one gets compared to, it could be complementary. Oddly, I'm not a big Alice Munro fan and though I did compare Chippindale's writing to hers, I enjoyed "A Matter of Letting Go."

The strength of the piece for me was the way I connected with the main character. Initially. As the story progressed however, it became increasingly harder to relate, harder to like him, and at the end he just frustrated and angered me. As the title suggests, I let go.

It begins with a man at the edge of a lake, obviously feeling down and contemplating a decision. Who hasn't taken some time for himself to work through something? But then, as he starts to recollect about recent events in his life, it starts to appear that "feeling down" is probably depression, and the decision is probably suicide. My empathy slowly changed to sympathy.

His plans for suicide, however, are postponed when a woman enters the scene in a canoe, unaware of the man's presence. I'm trying hard not to give too much away (read it yourself!), but the story then presents a very clever contrast between the two characters.

"A Matter of Letting Go" is wonderfully crafted. Chippindale captures mood very well- allowing the character to interpret his surrounding instead of the other way around. The plot and essential details are spaced perfectly to allow the reader a chance to form opinions about the character and what is going on (even if first impressions change!)

About the only small, teensy-weensy problem I have with the story is the title. Personally, I think "A Matter Of" is a tad pretentious (like saying "a tad.")

(Just a reminder that if anyone else out there should write a post about a short story, please feel free to submit the link to me at jmutford [at] hotmail [dot] com to use in my short story themed Bookworms Carnival coming up in the fall. To get an idea what these carnivals are all about, Reading Is My Superpower is now hosting this month's carnival with the theme "Surviving the Dog Days of Summer: Books That Take Your Mind off the Heat." Make sure you check out some of the excellent contributions! Just a heads up though, I had trouble viewing her site with IE, but it worked fine with Firefox.)

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