Recently I,Theodore Q. Rorschalk, had to send a rejection letter to Chris Miller, the VC of the close-but-no-capital-gain YOUNG PEOPLE HAVING GOOD, WHOLESOME FUN
Hello Mr. Miller,
I've finally posted the final judgment pon your current PCG. And I must say, not this time. Sorry, but I could not swallow the resolution to the kids' problem. Thank you for allowing us to deconstruct it on our site. I look forward to working with you in the future.
To which he graciously replied:
No, it's I who must again thank you. Publication isn't important to me (especially since I've already got you on my CV), but your vetting process is the most interesting of anyone's. Reminds me a little of that old TheFictionBitch site, only better because of all the different views involved. I will of course continue to submit to TQR and I've referred you to a number of writer friends (whose skin needs thickening).
PS Where did "Radiation" come from? Never saw it vetted. Find it unreadable (too esoteric or something). Like, very strong voice, but no content.
It was the post script that dominated my response. I was glad to have a conversation about the most recent TQR capital gain, knowing that its unique construction made it not your everyday CG, and one that would garner inquisitiveness..
I found RADIATION posted on an old writer's site I am a member of (Zoetrope) and was blown away by it. I gave it a very positive review and asked the author if she might consider publication at TQR. I was surprised when she replied in the affirmative because TQR isn't a heavyweight site and only pays a token $50.
So, seeing as how TQR hadn't been able to find any capital gains for the last quarter, I figured I better get some new content up there and, bypassing the regular vetting process, I put it up. Call it executive privelege. (It's good to be king). But seriously, it's something I've done before in the past when the subs weren't able to get results.
I love that you realize writer's need to thicken their skins. That's the kind of VC we are after. Thanks for guiding them our way!
I'd love to see your review of the piece. Perhaps it will inform my attempt to reread it.
It would be my pleasure, here you go...
Dear Ms. Kwan,
I can hardly find anything to fault with this story. It's complexity threw me for a loop the first time I read it. I did not see that the narrator's mother is the "I" in section III and so was a bit off on the familial relations I was reading of, thinking them somehow a generation off. But anyway. That is of little concern because this is a story truly meant to be read and enjoyed and unraveled multiple times through.
I'm sure I still have much to learn from it. I think I've read it three times so far and each time has been something of a revelation. Let me just say that the poetry of the language is beautiful. I am particularly delighted by this, "She read his castoffs when they went to play, as boys will, and little sisters are cast away." This one sentence, I think, perfectly sums up the circular (or should I say triangular) nature of the entire story, while having a phenomenal rythmn and rhyme scheme to keep the peasants turning the page. What I mean is it is both a pleasure to read out loud and inwardly puzzle over. Or something. Anyway. It's a great sentence.
I thought enough of this story to advertise it on th main boards or, more exactly, the "Discuss" toggle under the Short Stories entry in the Wriging Building. So, I hope you get some extra and good reviews.
The use of the mirror given as a wedding present to the mother (Kuzuko?) is a brilliant symbol of the passing of time and, conversely, the illusion of time. I'm afraid I am nearing my capacity to extrapolate upon these paradoxes and mysteries, but want to let you know that I noticed this and it brought tears to me and made me sit and ponder my existence and all that. I'm sorry if I'm not making a lot of sense here. I just want to get across the fact that your story really affected me and most everything that your story was conveying got through to me somehow, whether I was consciously aware of it or not.
I love how everything in the sections is mirrored (a ha, there's that symbol again and writing that just gave me a chill)in other sections, just in different ways from different perspectives, like the russian books, historical origins first and then content of said secondly as told in section II and section III respectively. Also the mention of th clothes in one section and the repitition, though in different words, in another section. Just great stuff. So, so good.
Everything is churning in this story, like a giant washing machine agitator turning the future in on itself, reflecting in the past and affecting the present. It's almost pointing to the irrelevance of time and how it's really all on point repeating itself or ... of course my logic starts to break down at this point, but my misunderstanding doesn't lessen my appreciation of your art.
I'm looking over some of the stuff I have underlined and it's all so good. But this sentence I cannot let go and have to share with you my appreciation of it: "So gently I let him go, so gently, gently, more gently than anyone would have believed of a tomboy like me." The repitition of gently mirrors the repitition of the darkness/light line that is so prevalent in the beginning of the story and repeats to the end. Also hearkens back to the little sister trying to fit in with the boys and the big brother she adores.
And this one too: "And you and I, we see through a glass faintly which is the mirror of time." which so wonderfully sets up your ending about being able to eschew the mirror's reflection and finally seeing face to face. The mirror is a crutch in the end.
I've studied a bit of zen and find that this is all somehow interconnected with that philosophy. The answers to the masters question which speak of dust on mirrors almost always, it seems to me know that I'm thinking about it, meet with the masters disapproval. But I'm getting too far afield here trying to expound upon what I cannot really talk about but only feel in my gut. This story is more than the finger pointing at the moon, it is almost the moon or it is the moon. It is really that good.
I would be honored if you would let me publish it in my little online journal, TQRstories. We do not take ourselves seriously (as editors and all that) but we really do love and revere (did I spell that correctly? God I hope so!) literature and this is some of the finest I've ever read. Please let me know. Usually the stories submitted have to go through a three tiered vetting process, but this one would forgo it because I am sold on it more so than I can rightly explain. Let me know.
A little more insight into RADIATION. Go read the origins of it in the last frame (page 10, I think) of what's posted on the site. To me, section 1 is like the Overture, musically speaking. The content, so to speak, starts coming in in the later sections. Anyhow. It really struck a vein or chord or however that goes with me. And that doesn't mean it's going to be everyone's cup o' joe. No problemo. I love the fact lit is such a smorgasbord that you can take from what thrills you and leave what doesn't for someone else. I just cross my fingers that what I partake of is what a lot of others will enjoy, too.
[Theodore,] [t]hanks for letting me read your review. I read her bio page some time ago, and just reread it again. And again, as with your review, beautifully written, but gives no inkling of what the story is "about." Not that this is a bad thing. Like what is a poem about? Which is how I think I'll have to read the piece: more as poetry than fiction. I find it interesting that so much of your (i.e., TQR's) critiques focus on plot and character elements, and yet in your review these are altogether absent, clearly unnecessary to conveying what the story did for you.
As senior editor of a webzine, I suppose it makes sense that you would want others to enjoy what you enjoy. But as a reader (and even a writer), I take special pleasure in recognizing/appreciating what others cannot (or will not). I love discovering that rare forum writer whom I know to be brilliant, whose writing excites me in a hard to describe way that I know you understand, but that everyone else (especially the weaklings) either ignore or lamely miss the point in criticizing.
In my experience (or opinion, anyway) the very best writing is divisive. You either love it or hate it. Show me a story that everyone agrees is great, and I'll show you a good story, an A+ student workshop story. I still haven't read enough of RADIATION to even venture an opinion beyond that the first few paragraphs failed to engage my interest, seemed almost self-consciously clever in a vacuous sort of way. But even if I can and do manage to give it a fair read, and hate it, I'm still pretty sure it's no A+ undergrad effort, but something more. It's not for everyone, or probably even most, which is the nicest thing I can say about it at this point. (Would be curious to read your staff's takes on it.)
Good point. I think of it more as a poem, too, I guess. I usually insist on strong characterization and plot, but this one doesn't really conform to that and blew me away anyway. Which is kind of awesome. I agree that a lot of RADIATION is antithetical to the fictive dream John Gardener insisted upon as it addresses the reader in a casual conversational way in certain passages. But I think that's part of the whole timeand distance thematic deal that's going on throughout the story. And you're right, I can't explain it, but it got me in the gut. What you say about it not being for everyone or even most is probably closer to the truth of how I feel about it, too. It's like I put it up just in case a few others out there could enjoy it the way I did and the rest be damned. Thank you for reminding me of this. It's definitely is not a graduate student workshop drive-by.