Steve Searls “A Little Chit-Chat”

If you haven’t read A Little Chit-Chat then stop reading this, click the link, and take the time to have a slow, luxurious read.

It deserves such attention and you deserve such fine writing in your life.

I don’t know if Searls worked on this or it just came out, fully formed, a rush of words and then done. I’m going with “it just came out…rush of words…” because there’s some awkward moments and I doubt most readers would catch them or care. It reads, to me, like an experiment.

The tone shifts throughout the piece. The first paragraph is subtly sensuous. The line “…like a mouse in slow motion evading a cat that sleeps.” is beautifully descriptive. The contrast between the harshness of the subject – the moon’s surface – and the sensuousity of the text are wonderfully juxtaposed, emotions v logic, is carried through the piece albeit through different tones in each section.

Example: the second paragraph starts with “The winds would be harsher, the mountains a fairy tale, trees a myth that never gave birth.” and continues.

If this was intended, Bravo! If it just happened, Practice! I know I will.

The third paragraph comes after a double-line break (it does on my screen) and that double-line break presents a shift in tone. We go from Richard Panek to Robbie Robertson’s Storyville and beyond.

What we’re seeing is the mythic becoming real, moving from an abstraction to a reality. We talk about our children, about parenting, and we swap jokes about being an adult in a house full of children (with some artistic nods to cultural icons. Funny thing about such nods; they mark you as a literati and move you from writing genre (Searls doesn’t) to writing literature. Modern authors know that literature is a synonym for limiting your audience. I suspect Searls knows that.

Now we come to a definite page break (“***”) and the pattern repeats. However, before we get to the next page break Searls does something interesting (to me); he invites us into a different mythic, a story within the story. This story-within-the-story is one the narrator tells the moon. Readers who’ve read this far must go on at this point, the call of the ancient storyteller is too great, too powerful to be ignored, and Searls use of mythic language, his world-building (tone, atmosphere, dialogue, character, et al) has drawn us too far in. The only way out is through.

And while the reader is reading through, Searls brings us to the surface to catch our breath before diving deep again until the final surface, the last paragraph, where he releases the moon from the mythic to its modern day orbital mechanical place in the sky.

Beautiful done, Mr. Searls. Beautifully done.

I mentioned earlier that the piece feels experimental to me. I’m glad he made the experiment. I enjoyed the read.

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