There is the rare surprise in a writer’s life: getting an acceptance into a magazine or journal one esteems, or winning the top prize in a contest. Maybe just having a great writing jag, or scoring a highly sought after contract?
Today the surprise comes in the form of a review of Microtones. I met Melanie Page at AWP in Boston this year, and it could have been the same day, no, the same morning that I physically saw, held and experienced Microtones manifested in real form at the Cervena Barva Press table, Gloria Mindock beaming (what an extra-ordinary editor…and human being!)
Melanie was one of many writers at AWP who generously got a copy of my first book, and said, with that pervasive twinkle in her eyes, “I’d love to review this!” I remember thinking, ‘yeah, right!’ It was so far from any previous experience I’d had.
Well, here it is! Melanie sent to me her astute observations and insights about Microtones, and here is her entire review:
Melanie Page- MICROTONES
I regret that I didn’t read this book sooner. Honestly, it’s a chapbook that I got in March at AWP 2013, which was followed by a train ride lasting over 24 hours. Okay, I get motion sick, which is why I listened to a Junot Diaz e-book. Instead, I read the whole thing while waiting for my BBQ chicken dinner to bake. That easy!
Some works in this chapbook are flash, others are poetry. I lean more toward fiction myself, which is probably why I liked those pieces more. The ones that stood out as my awesomest-favoritist were “Stand Here,” a piece that describes the descent of a relationship NOT in dialogue or feelings, but simply where the person was physically positioned (COOL!); “Recollection,” which captured an entire life in maybe 100 words–what’s he guilty of, what does the wife know, why is the pastor so forceful!–; “Buried,” about two women who are pregnant and waiting for their baby-daddy to come home, though he most likely died in combat–the women were soldiers, too, until they both became with child; and “Wrestling with Genetics,” a super shorty with a father/son duo battling out drinking, driving, and the macho attitudes that can lead to such a decision.
Flash fiction is painfully hit/miss and can totally deceive young writers. Some see it as a platform to describe a scene, and we get something like a photo. Others see the flash as a place to rant a bit on his/her personal views. The flash needs to be a WHOLE WORLD, a life, in few words. Vaughan does it about 100 or less. Amazing!
Example: “Most people don’t like a sarcastic cancer patient actually,” I said. Aunt Sally replied, “Well, most people don’t have cancer.” I drove her to her chemo treatments on Mondays, my day off. This was her third round. I turned up the radio. She re-applied her lipstick, turned it back down. “And what’s so bad with a little sarcasm every now and then?” Here we go. “Saved your Uncle Tony’s and my marriage. Maybe you shoulda tried a little sarcasm with your ex-wife?” I turned the radio back up. (from “A, B, C” in Microtones)
Don’t you just wonder about the relationship between these two? They seem incompatible, but they are together every Monday to help Aunt Sally avoid death. Where did she get her attitude about sarcasm in the first place? What really happened between the narrator and his ex-wife? These are areas in which a reader can dream. We’re fed enough to be satiated–to get a whole situation and some history–but are left room to explore.
Robert’s note post review: Thanks so much, Melanie, for making this Saturday unique and fantastic!
For more information about Microtones, and to order the book at Cervena Barva Press: