The Outlaw Life

running, reading, blogging, loving

[17] “A Fable for the Living”

on January 27, 2013

kevin brockmeier

What a BEAUTIFUL story, and in only seven pages!

The general plot outline of “A Fable for the Living” by Kevin Brockmeier (who’s BOMB ASS picture can be seen above – I WANT THAT TYPEWRITER! also that wooded hollow) is one of a world where, after the dead die, it is possible to communicate with them through letters that are absorbed into the ground. A recent widow writes letters to her husband for a year until she wonders – is he even really there? So she asks him, and when she gets an answer back, the entire world around her changes. The idea of writing to the dead, complete with functional delivery system, is not only endearing – it’s wonderfully hopeful!

There is something so creepy about the idea of letting the Earth just swallow you into itself (when the widow decides to join her husband in the land beneath the soil, she delivers herself as she would a letter – settling herself into a fissure in the ground until she is just kind of…absorbed), but I can’t say I wouldn’t necessarily let myself be taken if it meant being back with all those people I really love in life. I REALLY wish we’d gotten to hear more about the land of the dead beneath the Earth, but what we got of our world was so sweetly rendered. I will say that, looking back over the reading of this story, the whole thing seems to exist under a kind of grey haze, a feeling of fond detachment that made me picture the whole thing in my mind as if it were being done in some kind of charcoal sketch – black, white, fuzzy around the edges.

However, I think this is a story worth returning to later because of the way that Brockmeier was able to create and write the kind of meaningful details of love and relationships that I find myself trying to write in my own stories. Only when I do it, it doesn’t work – it seems cliche and corny. So I need to figure out if he’s really doing something different (which I imagine he is, in which the question then becomes WHAT, DAMN IT!) or if I just have a problem looking objectively at my own writing – which is probably also true. I think that this if one of the most fun results so far in my short-story reading journey: the ability to seem some truly great masters working out issues in their writing that I have in my own (it seems to be easier to see this in short fiction rather than novels, for some reason).

One thing is for sure, though – I need to look into more of Brockmeier’s stories in the future!

Rating: OMFGZ

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