In his manifesto Reality Hunger, David Shields uses assemblage to curate a dialogue about the limits of The Real. The voices he appropriates and sequences implicitly argue that our increasingly urgent twenty-first century desire for reality is compromised by the fact that our storytelling mechanisms are growing further from it. As Shields notes (without acknowledging in the text proper that he is parroting E. L. Doctorow), “There’s no longer any such thing as fiction or nonfiction; there’s only narrative.”
* fiction by Brenda Peynado from MQR 54:3 (Summer 2015) *
When the American ships arrived, they looked like giant white women swimming towards us on the horizon. American marines shouted orders from the crooks of the ships’ pale elbows, readied guns in the corner of vicious smiles. I was pushing Pablito’s stroller on el Malecón, and the people around me said, Look, what is that? But I knew. I had seen them before, decades ago in the first invasion.
The novella is slender but gaping. It embraces pause and pattern and gesture. It declares, “I can say more with less” and then it does. It is not an unwieldy short story but cohesive, taut, succinct. It is the novel’s architectural foundation, the stripped and fleshless core that argues the frame of a story might be enough. The novella is a kind of constellation. It is not less than the novel. In that it crafts and calcifies a story world, harnessing concision and brevity to widen the scale and possibilities of our own, the novella might be more.
The uninflected prose of an objective narrator has seemingly declined in contemporary literature in favor of the “voicier” POVs such as first person, second person, or third person close. We are told that reflecting characters’ personalities in the language—such as by collapsing the distance between the way they speak and the way the story is narrated—is a good thing.