Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Short Story #4: "Something Amazing" by Elizabeth McCracken

Way back when in January of 2008, I announced Book Plan 2008...and then promptly left it for other endeavors. But, I sat down with the new issue of Zoetrope: All Story the other night and read "Something Amazing" which is, in fact, just that.

Elizabeth McCracken's story touches on several plots, several characters, without landing on any of them; yet the story feels finished and complete and whole. One of the things I liked about it was that, stylistically, I thought it meshed well with the likes of Charles D'Ambrosio and Kevin Brockmeier. It's sort of a ghost story, sort of a family tragedy, sort of a cautionary tale. Ultimately, the family the reader is concerned about doesn't end up being the family in trouble. The ending of the story is, as Alison McGhee says an ending should be, inevitable. It's somewhat surprising, somewhat unexpected, but after reading it, it's a real world ending.

McCracken's prose is descriptive, tight writing. There's an element of personal journal, some reporting, and poetry.

The soul is liquid, and slow to evaporate. The body's a bucket and liable to slosh. Grieving, haunted, heartbroken, obsessed--your friends will tell you to cheer up. What they really mean is dry up. But it isn't a matter of will. Only time and light will do the job. Who wants to, anyhow?

Best keep in the dark and nurse the damp. Cover the mirrors, leave the radio switched off. Avoid the newspaper, the television, the whole outdoors, anywhere little girls congregate, though the world is manufacturing them hand over fist, though there are now, it seems, more little girls living in the world than any other variety of human being.

I plan to check out some more of McCracken's work; I'm particularly interested in her novels. For now, though, I'm treasuring the morsel of her work featured in the Spring '08 issue of All Story.

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