Hello from the Dogpatch. In the style of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, comes Biscuit, a collection in process by Dogpatch Founder David Marx. For this “dogfight” round, we read and commented on “Charity’s Discovery,” a story from the collection in which the lead character crosses from girlhood to womanhood and hopefulness to bitterness. Below is a bit of the story along with our remarks to David. Feel free to chime in!
We’re also very pleased to announce that another of David’s Biscuit stories, “Merle, Molly and the Cast-Iron Frying Pan” is forthcoming in The Saint Ann’s Review.
—From “Charity’s Discovery”:
She had gone to the restroom and while she was away, Ed Billick put a tack on her chair. When Charity sat on the tack, she let out a little scream. Ed’s desk was next to Charity’s making his guilt obvious. Now the teacher, Gladys Horton, was preparing to punish him. Miss Horton walked slowly to Ed’s desk and as she did, Charity saw the look on her face; it belonged on the face of an executioner about to administer justice and eager to do the task.
“Honestly, it didn’t hurt at all,” Charity said, hoping to prevent Miss Horton from taking drastic action.
The teacher stared back at Charity and said, “If we don’t punish them when they’re young, they will surely grow up to be criminals.”
It’s been awhile since I’ve had the pleasure of reading one of David’s stories in this collection.
Here we are in a small town called Biscuit where Charity, a young woman virtually chained to her mother (Faith), ends up a thwarted spinster. In this story, David is doing something immensely difficult, distilling 40+ years of this woman’s life into a single chapter. And for the most part, David’s effort is successful. His black humor marks every page even while we’re watching the train wreck that is this woman’s life. But as with all good stories, Charity is just as much a victim of her own reluctance to fight her mother and change the status quo as she is a victim of her mother’s cruelty. Bravo!
Here’s what I think needs work: Right now, there are a few places where I think the telling vs. showing are flipped. A couple of key scenes need to be fleshed out instead of racing by with exposition. And similarly, when you’ve got a great scene, don’t prep us with how this is going to change her life, include the scene that changed her life, and then tell us that it did indeed change her life. It’s a great scene. Trust us to get it.
I want to see the conflict build between Charity and her mother so that when we get to the end, it’s earned. Right now, we don’t get to see how Faith squelches every romantic interest Charity has ever had until after the “big one.” I need to see these thwarted attempts beforehand and watch Charity turn into a pressure cooker. Continue reading