Joseph Young’s Easter Rabbit is available for pre-order from Publishing Genius. It’s a beautiful book of micro-fictions, most no longer than fifty words and none longer than two-hundred. Young’s micros are dominated by He and She scenes ranging from the domestic to the absurd and to the absurdly cruel as in “Loss”:
She burned the shirt in the backyard, the green smoke an ugly whiplash, the buttons popping. I still don’t get it, he said. What? That I have one less shirt? The fire was pale, shining on her arms.
Many things are going on in between the lines, but the words and images are precise with ‘whiplash’ overlaying the whole as the sensation in worn relationships such as this.
Elsewhere water is dominant in the ninety-plus micros. Rivers, eddys, streams, lakes, ice sheets. As is nature itself: tadpoles flip, squirrels jump about, there is a wounded horse.
In “Ascension” Young portrays the mystery of nature and how the observer observes that which falls away in decay:
How many animals, she said, you think live in this woods? How much flesh? They thought of the birds, the rats, the snakes, the deer, the thousand bugs piled over the ground, squeezed among the leaves.
My favorite is “The Willful Child,” a micro that encompasses so many gothic images and startling emotions you think you’ve read a dose of Flannery O’Connor”
Her doctor told her it was the bite of a brown recluse, the dime-sized wound on her palm. She believed this, knowing that if there were a god, he’d come to her as a spider. Of course, she knew there wasn’t, and as the wound deepened and went purple, her heart refused to give it blood. She lay gaping on the bathroom floor, her hand the look of dead roses, her body an excitement of shudders. Help, she told her father through the telephone, I’m sorry for everything I’ve done.
It is a tender piece but not maudlin. The scared child is realizing what the world can do, how it can take away, even end things. These micros refuse any sense of completion. They live in the actions of the characters, in the details of the river or forest, and in the Beckettian/Pinteresque bits of dialogue. They are story and poetry and they describe a universe in mourning for its own mysteries, a human race run down but capable of enchantment. Joseph Young said he started out writing traditional length stories but he has found his niche in this powerful, evocative collection.
9 thoughts on “Joseph Young’s Easter Rabbit”
Greg, my copy just showed up in the mail. I’m going to read it on the train tomorrow. Rarely have I so anticipated a commute.
I got my copy yesterday, too. Really looking forward to it!
You know, that’s pretty evocative, especially that last one. I think I’ll buy this book if only to see what faint or largeblown taste lingers after reading. I wonder if these microfictions will clench my fists in frustration? I wonder if this form is capable of delivering the same sense of satisfaction that one can derive from a well-written and engaging novel, that sense of having one’s world altered, the wisdom that comes from watching fundamental change enacted through a character?
Is a fiction that elicits only and forgoes resolution a sustainable form? I wonder if microfiction is mere teasing, a flirt without the guts to go all the way?
Or is this what all good fiction does, no matter the length? I’m not sure. The first words from my fingers are no, good fiction also resolves or at least moves. I’m not sure there’s movement here or perhaps it’s so subtle a movement that I have trouble witnessing it. Is emotional evocation enough? Is it enough for modern minds?
I’m not dissing Mr. Young’s work, nor microfiction in general. I’m curious. I was quite intrigued by what I read here. The brevity swells the power perhaps. Thanks for sharing it.
Thanks much, Greg. And John, Christopher. glberen, I think those are good questions, well worth asking. I appreciate the interest.
Definitely. I think those are all valid questions. Scott Garson’s Gymnopedies are another set of micros coming out soon. Some are on the web already. http://artvoice.com/issues/v8n27/literary_buffalo/flash_fiction#SlideFrame_1
Fiction can just present to, I would guess. Like a patient presenting symptoms. And poetry presents images. One of the most famous short poems ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’ comes to mind. I’m reminding of Paula Fox saying about novels that a good novel begins with a small question and ends with a bigger one. That seems to happen in these micros too. In ‘The Willful Child’ I think about those things she is sorry that she’s done and inevitably I think of my own life, what I’m sorry for. In this instance, I’m reminded to be tender and not take things for granted. It’s like the author has communicated to me through this parable, because if I saw him on the street and he said, “Don’t take things for granted” I would probably shrug it off, but with the story, I see the result. This reminds me of Jesus needing to speak in parables to get his message out. The most famous micro-fictions of all!!!
John, Chris – enjoy, yeah.
Just bought the book and I look forward to reading it. I think I fixed my WordPress name display issue. Should be Brad Green. We’ll see.
That’s a good point about the novel starting with a small question and finishing on a larger. To some degree most do, but in the meantime, it’s rare for them to leave the questions unanswered. I think microfiction leaves these things unresolved for the most part. I’m torn between declaring this bad or good. I think it largely depends on the force of the words. The fictions quoted above have plenty of punch and perhaps extend their life by that force. I’d have just passed over this post without comment otherwise. I’d have not started thinking about these things.
Seems like they will function primarily on poetic levels. It’s the imagery and energetic language of the quoted fictions above that carry them for me.
I know I’m talking out my ass now. I haven’t read the book or much microfiction at all. But I will. Thanks for the post. You’ve introduced me to a new author. I’ll read Mr. Young’s book and see how I am altered by those words.
I started reading this last night with the intention of finishing it one sitting. I’d heard Adam R. saying somewhere that he has to stop reading Joseph’s micro fictions after like 6 or 7 at a time. I thought I would have far more stamina than that–but seriously had to push myself past 10 or 12, and then finally got overwhelmed and had to put it down for the night (I couldn’t read anything else afterward, I wanted to sit with these new worlds of mine).
These little stories hit like Mack trucks.
Absolutely, David. Had the same experience on the train this morning. Was going to read it straight through and then go back through again tomorrow. Only got through about a dozen. Kept finding myself reading each one again and staring out the window and then going back to it. Can’t wait to get back to it tomorrow.
glberen – I think the brevity of Joe’s work creates a whole different experience than what we’ve come to call “flash fiction,” work like Greg’s or D. Barthelme (two writers I sincerely admire). Their work flips something in me and sends me into this new space that is left fuzzy at the edges; it creates a reader’s narrative exploration – some of my favorite type of writing. Joe’s work and its quickness, to use Calvino’s term, feels more like Flaubert’s aphorisms or Ashbery’s lines in the Vermont Notebook. The language is fairly (not completely) simple, and you’re left asking, “Where’d I just go? – let me go back and see how I got there – wait, where’d I just come from?”