Monday, September 19, 2011

Reader's Diary #761- Oonah V Joslin: A La Descartes

Oonah V Joslin's "A La Descartes" is a subdued slice of flash fiction about a picky eater. It's sweet, it's mildly amusing, but after reading about dysfunctional families for the last two Short Story Mondays, perhaps that's not a bad thing. And as my son seems to be going through a picky eating stage-- a hard fact for this balut and whale blubber eater to comprehend-- I can at least relate.

At the end of the story which appears at the Every Day Fiction website, readers have left comments about the story, almost all of which are favorable. One in particular caught my eye, saying that "Flash fiction is the perfect art form for showing everyday life." At first I thought I agreed with this observation, but then it started to nag at me. If Guy Hogan was right, then why did I feel somewhat underwhelmed by Joslin's story? I liked the writing after all, I thought telling the story mostly as a dialogue was a nice touch. But in retrospect, I don't think Hogan was correct. In such a short form, if nothing beyond the mundane happens it becomes the equivalent to your sister's funny anecdote about the dog posted on Facebook: ultimately forgettable.

Besides, I thought the solution to picky eater was a little too obvious. Since we're doing sweet and wholesome here, I was reminded of a picture book Debbie and I often read to our children: Kevin Henkes' Owen. Owen is a mouse attached to his security blanket, much to the chagrin of the nosy Mrs. Tweezers who lives next door. Mrs. Tweezers is full of suggestions for Owen's parents, including soaking the blanket in vinegar and hiding it under his pillow for the "Blanket Fairy" to whisk away. Neither of which works. Finally, she asks, "Have you tried saying 'No'?" They hadn't. Henkes has fun with the reader by acknowledging an obvious solution and presenting it after more novel ideas have been attempted. Joslin's story seems to present her obvious and lone solution as clever. Not quite. Not as memorable as Henkes' story either.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)


Julie @ Read Handed said...

I'm with you. The story is cute, but it seems a little too cliche. It doesn't attempt anything new. Today, I read "Babylon Revisited" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which was sad and brilliant.

Anonymous said...

I have to check out the story. And I agree that flash fiction is not the best form to portray the mundane in life. The novel is. A well-written poem is. My short story monday arrive on a tuesday! Requiem

Teddy Rose said...

It sounds like it's a little too neat and tidy of a story for my tastes. I didn't have time to review a short story yesterday but I did two the week before and forgot to link them.