Monday, March 7, 2016

Samples of Quality Writing, ALETHEA BLACK, "You On a Good Day"


“You On a Good Day,” by Alethea Black
Published in “One Story,” #163, April 23, 2012
This is a story written totally in second person, about all the things you do, and don't, on a good day.
You don’t give the finger to the black pickup truck that tailgates and passes you aggressively, then let go of the wheel to give it two fingers when you see a rainbow-tinted peace sticker on the bumper. You do not call the friend—the one who was in the hospital a few weeks ago, and whom you did not visit or call—you do not call her today because today you need something from her. You do not consider dousing your refrigerator with gasoline and setting it on fire because of the sound its motor makes while you’re trying to work. You do not wish the earth would just ignite and everyone would die in a ball of flame simply because it has been hot for a few days. You do not conjure up, in as vivid detail as possible, every time anyone has ever wronged you in any way. You do not think: We’re a ruined, useless lot, and we deserve everything we get. You do not say under your breath, while forgoing a pack of cigarettes: It’s either pain in the body or pain in the mind, take your pick.

Here’s what I, U.R. Bowie, wrote on the blog for “One Story” in 2012:
This strikes me as the best story I’ve read since I’ve been subscribing to One Story–that covers about twenty stories.
I find myself marking up passages, even writing things down (my best compliment to a writer). So many wonderful passages, so much despair, but leavened with hope and optimism.
“Hurt people hurt people.” I suppose this expression has been around for awhile, but I never had heard it: wonderful.
I laugh all the way through this story, although the humor is dark.
About the ending: in the Q and A session, the ending is described as “unabashedly hopeful and happy” or something like that. I wouldn’t describe it that way. I think that the ending is happy/sad, like the rest of the story, like life.
The ending moves me.

Postscript, January, 2018:

In "The Missouri Review," Fall, 2017, Alethea Black published another story with a you narrative (told in second person), titled "A Place in the World." I don't like this one as much as "You on a Good Day," but it has some nice passages:

Your father dies and you don't want to look at his dead body. "You don't want to see his body without him in it."

Fellow workers are like family; they make fun of you, "but it's always in that friendly, stab-you-with-love way that family members have." [Of course, all too often family members can stab you in earnest, and so can co-workers and best friends.]

The note with the picture at the end of the story in "The Missouri Review" mentions that "A Place in the World" "is part of a new collection of true stories--You've Been So Lucky Already--forthcoming in 2018." I find myself wondering if someday there may be a whole collection of these second-person pieces, titled simply You.

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