Monday, November 17, 2008

Reader's Diary #415- W. P. Kinsella: Waiting on Lombard Street

Short Story Monday

After my wife's last post about Carol Shield's Dressing Up for The Carnival, Gypsysmom commented "I generally don't like short stories as I often feel they don't develop the plot as much as I need."

Putting aside the "I" which implies it is a personal opinion, and the "generally" which acknowledges exceptions, Gypsysmom's statement is not uncommon. Even amongst avid readers, the short story form isn't always looked upon favourably. Given the usual complaints, it stands to reason that they'd care even less for flash fiction, which is an even more condensed form of short story.

As a fan of both short stories and flash fiction, I used to come to their defence whenever someone didn't share my enthusiasm. I still think there are those that just don't give the forms a fair chance, but I've also come to realize that it sometimes comes down to a matter of individual preference. And while I'm no longer disheartened by the detractors, I still cringe whenever I come across a story that lives down to their expectations.

W.P. Kinsella's flash story "Waiting on Lombard Street" is one such story.

It is the tale of couple waiting for their order at a I-HOP. A simple enough premise, but I don't have an issue with that. Plus the introduction of a supernatural element held promise of livening things up. The mention of the Bermuda Triangle the third paragraph has decidedly more relevance as the story progresses. Likewise waiting in vain for one's meal has some comedic potential. (I've only been in Yellowknife since July but on three separate occasions, at three different restaurants, I've had a waitress "forget" my order. I can relate to the premise.)

But jokingly suggesting that their order got accidentally served in an I-HOP in an alternate universe, isn't exactly a great conclusion to a story. Even non-Sci-Fi junkies have talked that idea to death. Kinsella presents it as if it were an original thought but does nothing original with it. A plot should be more than a passing thought. A story should be more than this.


Anonymous said...

It doesn't sound like a story that would lure you in.

Flash fiction? I've never heard the term before. I learn something new every day. '

I'm a bit of a short story snob myself - I don't know why, I've read some fabulous ones and you'd think it would suit my attention span so much more. Ingrained prejudices, a terrible thing. Terrible and silly.

Teena in Toronto said...

I'm not a fan of short stories either as I like getting to know the characters.

I finished another Canadian book recently ... Tommy Chong's bio:

Sherrie said...

Hi John,
I don't know if I let you know I wanted to do the Canadian book challenge. But I am. I have a list and have recently finished one book. You can see my post about that book here:
Take Care!!