A Beautiful review of my story by JJ Dupuis
I'm incredibly moved by this thoughtful review of my short story,There's Something I've Been Meaning to Say to You" from the talented author JJ Dupuis, whose Creature X mystery series is amazing. I love Cheever's short story Reuninon, and I'm beyond touched by this generosity. This made my week!
"As a reader of short stories and someone who loves the form, I strive to maintain a steady digest of shorter works of fiction, even when I’m deep into a novel or nonfiction title. Short stories are an underappreciated art form (in my opinion) yet one that is widely available and accessible for everyone. For those reasons, I’m going to use my social media channels to shine some light on one particular story that affects and impresses me the most on what I hope is a weekly basis.
My first “Short Story of the Week” is “There’s Something I’ve Been Meaning to Say To You” by Danila Botha, which was published in WordCity Literary Journall and will be included in Botha’s forthcoming collection Things that Cause Inappropriate Happiness, out in March of 2024 from Guernica Editions.
The impact of the pandemic on our friendships and social lives is something I’m sure many of us, if not most of us, have contemplated as we have transitioned from the pandemic chapter of COVID to the endemic one. This is a fertile soil in which to grow a short story. But Botha resists the simplicity of a story of pandemic friendship loss. Instead, she masterfully weaves the story of a friendship already damaged beyond repair, then put out of its misery by the isolation and distance that we can all relate to.
At a time when people posted messages in their windows and outside their homes to thank first responders and frontline heroes, the narrator of this piece takes a similar tact to eulogize a friendship lost. With each message, beginning with "There's something I've been meaning to say to you," we peel back another layer of a complicated relationship, understanding the envy, frustration, love and longing that exists between ourselves and those we feel closest to. In doing so, the reader learns so much about this friend that is never actually seen, and so much about the narrator, whether she intended to give herself away or not.
Beyond the friendship in tatters, “There’s Something I’ve Been Meaning to Say To You” also explores the need for connection that those around the narrator seek from her. Her messages/appeals to her friend have been noticed by her neighbours and have inadvertently knocked down the barriers and breached the anonymity of living in a big city, where not knowing your neighbours is par for the course. This additional layer to the piece gives it yet another dimension, which a novice writer might not make use of to such a degree, or might miss entirely.
For a story that comes in at less than 2000 words, it’s incredibly deep and powerful, containing the richness and detail of a much longer piece. Although the pandemic informs the structure of the story, I would not consider it “about the pandemic.” It doesn’t run the risk of seeming gimmicky, superficial or losing relevance as the years wear on, since the relationship at the core of the story is so meticulously constructed. It feels like John Cheever’s “Reunion,” using what’s said and what’s not said to gives us a novel’s worth of story in five minutes’ worth of reading. It’s a brilliant display of technical skill and a satisfying read, and greatly impresses me as both a fan of the medium and someone who hopes to excel in it."