The short of it
The TALE: Tehachapi Art, Literature and Entertainment
July 31, 2021
They say good things come in small packages. I have witnessed that myself in life, from sparkling gems of treasure to simple perfect words like “I Love You” written on a sticky note and wrapped exquisitely inside the tiniest box. Creative and effective.
I came by “Bonds of Love and Blood” by Marylee MacDonald quite by an accident of fortune. A compilation of 12 short stories, MacDonald uses each word precisely, and her choices of venue and character with artistic refinement. She brings you around the world, stepping into the shoes of people whose humanity is palatable, both crushing and joyful and everything in between.
The art of short stories is to swiftly draw the reader in and make them care about the character and circumstance. Whether it be simple or complex, the goal is to make readers yearn for the journey toward some semblance of resolution, completeness or at least enough information to leave the reader capable of imagining the before and after for themselves.
When the writer does this well, hang onto your hats and hearts, for the swiftness of the short story can take one’s breath away. It can stamp itself indelibly onto your psyche where you can’t let go of it for days. Or perhaps you ponder a twist of a story and your mind works to bring the characters around or through it. In that process, the readers often find themselves in a sudden journey of self discovery and the character’s story in reality becomes yours. It is not surprising that we often see ourselves within the needs of others.
Let MacDonald take you quickly to Istanbul for love, or to Prague looking for something precious lost, or experience culture shock through the eyes and emotions of an elderly Japanese father supporting his aging daughter in a wedding in Mill Valley, California. Short stories cut to the quick, hold a mirror up for readers to see both the characters and themselves. A snapshot moment that can open or close wounds, start a personal journey or end one.
As I’ve mentioned before, the picture book is a genre of short stories, too. I challenge you to collect 12 of them together and imagine them bound between one single cover. What do they tell you from one story to another about life’s journey, with both reflection and introspection? I choose three as examples to get you started. In “maybe” by Kobi Yamada, the words and pictures (by Gabriella Barouch) show endless potential, encouraging both young and old and those in between that it is never too late to do incredible things and to exceed your wildest dreams. “The Most Magnificent Thing” by Ashley Spires becomes a how-to book on building something from scratch to success. Kevin Henkes brings an exploration of patience in his “Waiting” on the path to our desires, through imaginative play, friendships and the seasons of our lives.
Of course, there are a few surprises along the way. Life always holds surprises, doesn’t it? Patience on the journey of life is not just a message for children, but to us all. And to dream, imagine and build with great expectation, and to remember we are not on this journey alone.
In those three short story picture books we journey. One of my favorite journeys is with Fern and Wilbur and Charlotte in “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. Not exactly a short story but a small book that an adult can read in a few hours. This tender story of love and friendship, of life and death comes with a practical wisdom we would all do well to internalize. Remember Charlotte’s three messages to Wilbur? “Some Pig,” “Humble” and “Radiant?” They are wisdoms in small simple packages. To grow confidence in one’s self, to experience love humbly and with joy, and understanding and accepting both limitations and time in perspective of a life well lived.
Life is fleeting. There is so much to experience, and sometimes we need to fill up quickly as it grows with both challenges and complications. Short stories, short picture books and short novels should be close at hand in this busy world, that is again getting busier by the day. Because if we miss the “short of it all” we could have trouble managing the big stuff when it comes. Take small moments to fill up when you can.
*Midge Lyn’dee is a fictional character used for the purpose of entertainment though the reviews are real and sincere.