The Unknown: The Orange Line.
  Reader Critique
To: William Gillespie
From: Scott
Date: November 14, 1994
Story: Death of a Collector

I liked this story, but not as much as the first one you turned in. This has got a lot of whiz-bang-knock-em-dead verbiage, but it seems to me that you’re not hanging a lot onto this marvelous frame. This is good writing: but it seems to me that it is good writing about your record collection—not too much else. I suppose there’s a kind of lost youth/existential angst quality to the piece, but I’m not sure how rich this is, or how deeply it is attached to the story for you, as the author. It seems to me that there are hints of “themes” scattered all around the piece: “the game of capitalism” (which, by the way, the main character is obviously implicated in), the nihilism of suburban adolescence, the falseness of human relations.

However, the return, always, is to the record collection. I know that this is in many ways the point of the piece, and my desire for more out of the story probably betrays some pretty conventional assumptions about writing/art. My point here is this: what seems “real” or “important” in this story are also the things that are fundamentally red herrings. How much explaining is it fair to ask a writer to do? I don’t know, but more than this, I think. After reading it, I’m left only with an appreciation for its wit, a fairly simple thematic impression of the record collection as a commercially objectified love affair, a miscellany of bad music titles (some good) from the late seventies and early eighties, an appreciation for a few well-wrought sentences, and not a hell of a lot more.

How could I see this story developing in a richer way? Well, this love-object thing for starters; there is a lot in the psychic mythology of the collector that you can work with. Play with the vinyl as love object idea. Also I think that there’s more you can do with the way that the records mediate all Zig’s other relationships—he doesn’t know people as people but as fellow admirers of and potential interlopers in his relationship with his record collection. The teenage nihilism, although dealt with to death by the brat pack of the 80s, could work if turned up to a more satirical extreme. On the level of language, there could be more lines like the first of the story. When your sentences work, they are fueled on a high-octane blend. But I think you have a lower hit ratio here than you did with your first story. If I were you, I’d come back to this story eventually, read it out loud, and circle all the clunker lines. Some of the self-referentiality “he knew no sarcasm” can go too. More sparkling shiny lines are just calling out to be written here.

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The Unknown at Spineless Books.