Every now and then you read a story which gives you a jolt. ‘Suicide Watch’ is one of these. In spite of its confronting title, the story is not depressing. It takes you into the teen world of social media, with its relentless pursuit of ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ and what lengths teens will go to so they can elevate their quota. The tension and uncertainty are nicely calibrated so the narrative skips along.
It has one of the best openings I’ve read:
‘Jill took her head out of the oven mainly because it was hot and the gas did not work independently of the pilot light. Stupid new technology! And preferring her head whole and her new auburn sew-in weave unsinged, and having no chloroform in the house, she decided she would not go out like a poet’.
I love the humor and desperation in this. The ending though comes with a jolt. Partly expected, partly not. The writing is an exercise in style, masterfully balanced between the vernacular and the poetic.
AS Adam Ant says, “Do yourself a favor’ and read it. *
Have you read a story recently that has given you a jolt?
At the writers’ group we were issued a list of things to check when we’re critiquing each others’ stories, things like plot, character, setting, dialogue. We’d put a tick or a cross depending whether the requirements were met. All well and good. Yet I couldn’t help thinking of the checklist that mechanics fill out when they’re servicing your car. So I said, “A short story is not a car!”
This put a brake on proceedings. They didn’t know what I was driving at. I didn’t know what I was driving at either. I just felt it was wrong. I don’t know what a short story is like but I do know it’s not like a car.
A good book is like a good fire. You warm to it. It glows for you. When you’re not with it, out in the world, in the cold cross currents of life, you long to get back to it. It is self sustaining like good food or drink. I always like to come home at night and cuddle up with a good book.
‘Zombie’ and ‘Motherlode’, two short stories by Thomas McGuane are what I’m into now. That I’ve read them twice before doesn’t matter. They give off warmth and comfort. ‘TEOTFW’ by Charles Forsman is a short graphic novel that gives out the furious energy of a blazing fire.