Writing on Writing

Wash the white clothes on Monday
“Wash the white clothes on Monday”–“Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid, The New Yorker, 1978.

In order to write long, I probably need to know how to write short.  My novel–yes, I wrote a novel–is currently a bit stalled and I am considering trying to write and submit some essays or short fiction.  I found recent inspiration, in the vein of what makes writing great, in a list of most anthologized short stories on LitHub.  Most of the stories are available on-line at no cost, so why not read them and analyze for myself what makes them so appreciated?  I’m sure I can learn a thing or two.  So here, for what it is worth, is the first story I read, “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid, which was included in 8 anthologies.

“Girl” is short, around 682 words and reads like a list, to my ear more of a prose poem than a story.  There is more atmosphere than plot and it provides an entrée into the world of a young girl from the West Indies.  It is a series of instructions, apparently from a woman to her daughter; a mother who alternates between wisdom and verbal abuse.  As I review the story it begins to deepen but I still fail to connect to it.  The beauty in “Girl” is in the eye of the beholder.  In my oh-so-humble opinion, this wouldn’t make my greatest hit list.


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