Submitting fiction today, for the most part, results only in being placed on bulk-emailing lists so that you may be kept abreast of recipients' opportunities for donation and purchase. But, when one really stops to think about it, this is probably kindest. Investing one's work in venues such as here, where not only is it read, often in its entirety, but, at the very least, perfunctorily remarked on, and, if one is very unlucky, advanced for more (and less) scrupulous review, is like sending one's child to boot camp, where, while failures and shortcomings are abundantly and voluminously noted, no one appreciates the painstaking labor that has gone into molding the unique, beautiful and beloved little personality and life experience that is your baby. No one gives a fuck. At least not nearly the fuck you do. And even if by some remarkable stroke of happenstance your offspring should achieve popular renown and recognition in political or artistic realms, this is no indication of worth. Seriously, look around.
All Rocks is trying to say is that it takes thick skin and self confidence to sub here. VCs are to be congratulated. They, more than anyone, are the measure of their work. Even without Alston's kind and humorously self-deprecating cover letter's summarization of plot, explanation of metaphor and assertion that, "The story serves as a meditation on loss, fear, and alienation," Rocks could've told that this one was written close to the heart.
But yes, it was kind of boring. So what? And, really, it itself was not boring. It itself was a painstakingly crafted piece of CW in which Rocks spotted not a single typo or gross grammatical mistake, for which the prose alone carried him maybe 3/4 of the way through until he began to read in bigger gulps.
It's the story of a couple who buy and care for a jade bonsai tree which they name Sam. Their thumbs are green. The plant thrives. The woman has some indeterminate wasting illness, its lack of diagnosis not preventing his ensuring "she was taking the right medication at the right time." They walk in the park. There are visits from both sets of parents. He has an extended, present tense, paragraph-free dream in which she appears hideous, and then, later on, after she's gone, another in which she is beautiful.
Rocks is a huge fan of first person, but here the POV began to grate. The plethora of pronouns (he counted over 250 instances of "I" alone before giving up) lent to it a narcissistic vibe, a self-absorption, an almost shrillness not conducive to meditation on sorrow. (The trick, Rocks sometimes thinks, to writing good first person, is to keep oneself, as much as possible, out of it. [Hypocritical, perhaps, coming from an avatar who critiques only in third person.])
It's been Rocks' limited experience that once a piece has been sold, been sent to boot camp as it were, ephemeral glee notwithstanding, it loses something for him. He loses his connection to it. This is not why he's doing the VC the service of letting this one pass. But consider it a collateral benefit. No. You're welcome. And good luck with your simultaneous sub to Tin House.
The topic has been locked.
Date: 2018/01/10 16:22
Okay, the Bull has admitted this before and will admit it again. He is not into all this super literary stuff. It lacks the important things, like explosions, curse words and boobs. However, he made a concerted effort to give this cap a try.
Bonsai is, well, a memory. It deals with the subject of illness and loss from the perspective of a love interest. The language and pros are very descriptive and detailed. Albeit, maybe a little too detailed. Technically, the cap is well executed. There were a few commas out of place, a couple of minor typos, nothing huge.
The cap does a couple of tense changes, not awkwardly or badly. I get that this is a stylistic choice, deliminating the dream sequences from the meat of the cap. I get that, but I am still not a huge fan of these.
The cap delivers with a sense of energy drain that the main character is experiencing. You feel the dryness, the passion evaporation. However, there is a distinct lack of emotion. The loss lacks any real emotional backlash. It feels empty and unrelatable. It’s like it is an echo, filtered into a shadow of what it should be. It was difficult for me to invest emotionally in this cap.
Additionally, some of the descriptions were a little too detailed. Did we really need to know the exact procedure for making eggs and toast? It seems a little excessive.
Finally, there is the subject of the bonsai, the subject, the center of the cap. While its presence was sprinkled throughout the cap, it did not hold up enough to be a real centerpiece or theme. Yes, it was there, strong, healthy, constant; but it lacked a cohesive link to the cap.
So I have to say no. Maybe with some editing, this could be more. However, for now, it does not make the monkey smile.