Saturday, June 13, 2009


A Story by Josh Weil
Reviewed by Max A. Gordon

Setting: Eads County environs (a rural, agricultural area), perhaps in Virginia?

Protagonist: Osby Caudill, a rancher

Narrator: 3rd person omniscient

Tense: past

Nearing middle age, and alone, Osby cuts a figure of almost Chaplin-esque stature. His attempts to stay in touch with his long-time best friend, are complicated by the fact of his unmarried, non-parental status. His devotion to his now deceased parents (his father a recent suicide) and to his ranch has left him reclusive and unprepared to interact with the world at large. The few others in touch with him see the need for his exposure to, and interaction with, humanity, and he does allow himself to be talked into advertising for and accepting a boarder to help fill up the large, empty house he lives in. But even as he is agreeing to accept the very first applicant, there is no real engagement on Osby’s part. He stands apart from the interaction, almost a neutral observer, fascinated by the young man’s enthusiasm for life, but unable to share it on anything other than a superficial level.

Likewise, when he receives a clumsy offer of a sexual relationship, which might ultimately lead to a parallel emotional bond, Osby doesn’t just walk away – he runs flat out. Ultimately, Osby is his father’s son, a man for whom the world must center on those already dependent upon him – his cows and the ranch they inhabit. His future doesn’t look particularly bright. Nevertheless, Osby is an almost iconic American character… the man, alone, independent, self sufficient, and self-fulfilled.

At ~6800 words, this story has several flaws that, while not totally destructive, do somewhat damage the story, and should have been caught by a careful editor. The story begins by exploring the relationship between Osby and his long-time best friend, Carl Ventre. Unfortunately, later in the story, Carl Ventre becomes Clendal Ventre. Similarly, the Quickmart later becomes the C&O. Lastly, kenaf, while actually slightly resembling the cannabis plant, has very little resemblance to the sugarcane plant. This might be attributable to the character’s lack of familiarity with sugarcane, but might also be authorial error. Nevertheless, this story is well worth reading.

The inkwell is four fifths full!

ePublisher: (free login required) Narrative has one of the most professionally designed websites I’ve yet seen in the epublishing world.

Narrative Magazine’s Mission Statement reads: NARRATIVE IS THE LEADING ONLINE PUBLISHER of first-rank fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. A nonprofit organization, Narrative is dedicated to advancing the literary arts in the digital age by supporting the finest writing talent and encouraging readership around the world and across generations. Our online library of new literature by celebrated authors and by the best new and emerging writers is available for free.

Format: I read this story online, using the .pdf file


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