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Fast, on-the-fly prose off: Story in AGNI v. Fleming story

Monday 2/19/24

Went through "Horny Date" just to make sure there was nothing that needed to be done--there wasn't--and have been working on "Idra" and "Box Art." The latter should be all done now, but I will leave it alone for the rest of today and confirm--or not--with several reads tomorrow. Want to do an impromptu prose off on the fly? We'll get into some longer ones soon. But you really just need so few words from anything I do next to anything these people do to show the gap, and these both feature a bed. This is from "Box Art":


His mom comes upstairs looking for him and sees what he’s done sitting on the floor next to his sister’s bed with headless bodies by his leg. She gasps or it’s something like that. He hasn’t heard her make this sound before.


The story is about a boy who goes to the museum with his family, which is the last place he wants to be, but he sees these Joseph Cornell boxes, and he gets this idea which he carries out when he gets back home. The story isn't what we think it is at first. And what he's doing turns out not to be what his mom thinks it is at all, either, though the implication seems to be that she's not going to know this. We learn the real reason for the visit to the museum, which was more than this family outing. Just as we learn where the boy's heart was.


A Cornell box is a sort of collage narrative under glass. This isn't collage--but it is a form of box art itself. In looking at this story again this morning, I saw that there were only two commas in it. Which was the actual right amount. It wasn't like, "A comma should go here, but I'll be creative and not use one!" We're getting so much about four lives--brother, sister, mom, dad--in such a low total number of words. We know things about these people that they don't know about themselves and each other.


Each word has to be doing so much in concert with every other word. Each word has to "tell" so much. Not as in "I'm going to tell you something." I mean have that much going on with it. Have levels of implication, meaning, impact. A word in a great story doesn't pull its weight just be being there. It has to be an irreplaceable word make its unique contribution to parts and the whole. This is the first sentence. It's 70 words long, but you wouldn't know it, because it's written downhill.


This boy gets dragged to the museum with his parents and his sister and he really thinks of it like being dragged because to him what’s happened is no different than if he was tied to the car with some rope and his dad hit the gas but when he's at the museum he sees these Joseph Cornell boxes standing upright in a wall-mounted display case and he likes them.


These lines here are from the start of Jenny Heijun Wills' "Serial" from AGNI:


My new boyfriend said he was gonna fuck up my old boyfriend because he makes me cry and then tricks me into forgiving him, again and again and again. He was kind of sexy when he said it, my new boyfriend, because I’m not used to masc energy like that, and I’ve never had anyone want to defend me in such a primal way. But that’s beside the point now, because earlier today my old boyfriend crushed every bone in my neck and shoved me under this four-poster bed. My head is wedged at a ghastly right angle, facing the door.


Nothing from these people means anything. Give me meaning, or go away. It's like it's all done just so they can have something they can say they've written, with no conviction, no substance. They don't even believe in it. A great story has to be there. It needs to exist. Not it just so happens to exist. Do you understand the difference?


You see that "masc" and it's like, come on. Knock it off. Masc? It's like, are you that lacking in anything for us that you change "masculine" to "masc" hoping that you'll be thought of in terms of "Wow! They're so creative!" or are you that awkward and don't have a clue how forced and incongruous--clanging--the word choice sounds? Or both?


And the person narrating this story is currently pinned beneath a bed. Oh. That's believable. There's a way to use the internal voice, and that voice can take us to situations and settings, and though they may be in the past they can have a present tense aspect, but this isn't how you do it. This is just amateur hour.


When I read these things by these people, who have no ability, trying to cover that up by these forced attempts to be "creative," I am reminded of the Libertines' "What a Waster," with its lyric of, "Get back inside, you've got nothing going on."



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