Monday, November 21, 2011

New Fiction Published at 10,000 Tons of Black Ink

Before an accepted story is published, the author is asked to select another published piece on the 10ktobi website and write a short statement about the story, noting in what ways it might be provocative, insightful, interesting or impressive. The writer’s comments appear with an Editor’s Note as to why the piece was chosen. In this way, 10,000 Tons of Black Ink strives to promote dialogue between writers, editors and readers, and supports the writing community as a whole.

Read the comments by Rebecca Burns and Allan Shapiro, our published authors this month, or visit our website to read their story and editorial comments.

Rebecca Burns’s comments on Alison Grifa Ismaili’s “Shape-shifters”:

This is a persuasive piece, as moving as it is humorous, which conveys a real sense of place and captures the uplifting, occasionally painful idiosyncrasies of family life.

The title is very apt; David the young narrator is painted in a sympathetic but strong light, seeking his own identity set apart from his hideous older brother. He turns to books, the education system, anything to counter the shifting reality that surrounds him; a shifting reality caused by a chaotic family life. Books help to clear adolescent, foggy emotions—the teenage crush he feels is actually “one of those dangerous kinds of loves I’d read about in books at the library.”

A clever and well-pitched use of imagery support the running theme of painful relationships; David admits he “would have sliced up my whole body and jumped into a pool of lemon juice just to make her like me.” This perfectly captures teenage infatuation, and this juxtaposition of physical agony and emotional fulfillment is replayed in a later scene where the narrator watches a fist-fight between his brother, Fernando, and Fernando’s girlfriend, following the revelation that Fernando had been unfaithful— unsurprising to the reader, given the way he had been portrayed in earlier scenes.

The story also contains well-placed cultural references, recognizable even to readers not from the U.S. The line: “the thing that made me respect her for real was when she kicked Fernando in the balls again and turned on her light heels and took off like she was Marion Jones before coming clean on the UPN 9 News,” is just right; we, the readers, know exactly what the narrator means by this comparison—we are drawn into the story by such phrases. And we can see what is inevitable, what the ending will be. When it comes, the lack of clarity over the fate of the young niece, Zayinna, means one thing—that David must come into his own and finally assert himself.

A compelling and convincing story, well-executed.

Allan Shapiro’s comments on A.K. Small’s “The Diving Board”:

A most interesting little character study. A teenager trying to work through love and sexuality. Fatherless and practically motherless, there really is no clear definition for Heath as to what love is, no basis for comparison except the love he received from his mother, probably only when he was much younger. Add a massive amount of teenage hormones and things become quite confusing, except for the character’s desire, of course.

I also love the closed setting of the swimming pool, like a hotbed of teenage sexuality, with Heath above it all on the diving board, separated from it, but also almost the reason for it, as if it is all there only for him.

And finally, I loved the poetry/rap in this piece. For me poetry, and prose for that matter, is all about trying to put into words things that have no simple definition. And for Heath, it’s almost reflexive, as if he has no control over it. And the one time he needs it, when he’s feeling very powerful things that don’t make sense to him, his words fail him, and he fulfills those feelings with action, which eventually leads to the tragedy of being human, not a God on a diving board.

Great work, and like all great works, completely open to the reader’s interpretation, malleable and engaging, meaning different things to different people.