The Unknown: The Orange Line.
Reader Critique

To: Frank Marquardt
From: Scott
Date: September 19, 1994
Story: Little Monster

I like quite a few things about this story, and I like them a lot. First of all, your subject matter: perversion perhaps or maybe “not guilty by reason of social frustration” is a good one—odd enough to stay interesting. You play some games with narrative tone, and you do it very smoothly. You’ve got a sharp wit, and as far as humor, I’d give the one-liners a pretty high “hit ratio.” Your throwaway, marginal characters are introduced swiftly and comically. Some of these lines are exquisite. The one about the Julie’s rubber ducky and “mathematical imprecisions in life’s lattice” is dynamite. I would say that the story is divided into roughly five sections. The first three are my favorite; the last two are where I would say the biggest problems/criticisms that I have with the story dwell. Random notes:

  • I’m sure someone will bring up the politics of this in class. I sense a certain authorial ambivalence to whatever issues this brings up, unless I’m misreading. That’s cool with me, and I think one of the best things about the piece is that there’s no preachy intrusion on this glimpse of the little monster.

  • The second paragraph on page four is where my problems start. The tracks shift abruptly, and I’m not sure what you’re trying to do for the continuity (or dis) of the piece. By going into this shorthand history of Jack’s life post-litigation. A couple of the details are funny, but for me this paragraph was somewhat of a steam-sucker. The timeline strings events together where each of them could hold a more interesting in-depth paragraph on their own.

  • I want a lot more of the “thinking about death obsessively” paragraph. There’s not enough there, I don’t think, for the reader to draw any conclusions, or make interesting connections (me at least). Is it the classic orgasm=little death juxtaposition?

  • The ending, although witty, doesn’t do much for the “so what” question. I don’t know if you need an epiphany, but some kind of catharsis would be a nice payoff for the reader.

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The Unknown at Spineless Books.