Reading can be fun!

Over at Doublethink, Joseph Bottum once published a perfectly charming short story entitled Melodrama. It does a good job of stepping out of itself here and there, which can be a tricky thing:

“Why is everyone so afraid of melodrama, when it happens to be true? Those old melodramatic plots had to come from somewhere. Poetic justice, the sense of an ending, a tale with a moral like the clicking shut of a well-made box: We don’t look for them in life because we found them in stories; we look for them in stories because we saw them first in life. Forget ambiguity. The entire universe wants a neat and happy conclusion. Creation is God’s own cliff-hanger, the Perils of Pauline in six hundred billion installments, played across the stars.

Susan Lark was young, pretty, and sufficiently inexperienced to be outraged by the suggestion that she was any less experienced than a combination of Mata Hari, Susan Sontag, and the absinthe-sodden madam of a New Orleans bordello. She worked for the administration of St. Aloysius University, in Washington, D.C., and she was engaged to a prig…”


  1. Matthew,

    I don’t suppose Ms. Lark picked her nose in any particularly fancy way, huh?

    Daring to criticize, I think that the last line of the story (as it appears in the post) should have been the first – to get the engine running, anyway.

    “Susan Lark was pretty, young, sufficiently inexperienced and married to a prig…”

    And THEN it’s off to the races with all that expository. You need to set anchor firmly, and only THEN should you begin to cast your lines…

    Shame on Mr. Bottum; he should know better.


  2. Matthew Lickona says

    Shame on YOU – you should follow the link! Bottum doesn’t start where I did. I just included that graf because it explained the title…

  3. Matthew,

    No, it’s obvious he reads your blog, saw my criticism, and quickly followed my impeccable (not to mention) infallible advice, switching out the original beginning for this new one….

    For his next short story, which I think should be entitled, “Blow JOB” – he should start it thus:

    “JOB was stupid, an idiot, and somewhat of a literary prig…”

    See if he follows that advice…

    Or someone, anyway.



  4. You boys…

  5. Santiago says

    He should have started it: “The short story died yesterday. Or perhaps today. I can’t remember…”

    Just kidding. I’m actually against the pessimism about literature, and read these two interviews for some optimisim:

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