The Unknown: The Orange Line.
Reader Critique

To: Frank Marquardt
From: Scott Rettberg
Date: November 1, 1994
Story: Housesitting

I have to admit that I’m a little disappointed with this story in comparison to the first story you turned in this semester. Maybe it has something to do with the level of vitality you imagined the two respective main characters brought to their experience, but it seems to me that in ways that the first one danced, this one is stumbling. I don’t entirely get the point of this story, but that’s probably just me. Also, I kept thinking of Raymond Carver’s great story about housesitting; probably an unfair comparison.

There are still moments where the language sparkles here, but there’s a lot of gray inbetween the spots of color. Sometimes Moralta seems to me to be a bit overly dramatic/existential (ethereal overcompensation for something long past, but not yet dead—she didn’t wonder what would become of her, because she already knew)—Yuck (not that I don’t do this kind of excessivating, too.)

I’m not sure I get the trope with the dog, and the philosophical meditations attached to it, but it made me think of Kafka’s dog story.

I suppose this is somewhat minimalist fiction about a woman in her minimalist life, but I’m not sure that I got the impression that Moralta was a particularly interesting character. She’s (and I suspect that this is intentional) kind of gray.

Your sex scene seems a little too quick, sketchy, even for a character as recalcitrant in her blandness as Moralta.

The story ends on an interesting note, but Moralta crying doesn’t move me. I never got to know her enough to like her, or to care that this woman is weeping.

If this is an old story (I sort of suspect this) I’d start something else. If not, give your readers more details to work with. Bring back that attention to language that everybody liked in your first story. Do something (maybe talk more about her eccentricites) to make me give a shit about Moralta.

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