“On the Highway”

Overwhelming force of violence or evil makes powerful reading for some. For some, but not for me. Powerful reading for me is in tension of struggles between opposing forces in the narrative. When one of these forces is love your story becomes cosmic within nature, no matter how exalted or mundane.

The last sentence lacks clarity because it’s unclear what “no matter how exalted or mundane” is referring to. I leave that configuration because it sounds better than any way I might think to clarify. But, no matter what’s referenced in that sentence, the phrase fits: “Opposing forces?” “Story?” “Within nature?” Each, within the story, might be exalted or mundane.

 

I’ve listened twice to Francesca Forrest’s short story “On the Highway,” a commanding story around a singular theme — only you don’t realize it as you read. The story is so well and robustly told you’re unaware of anything but the tale itself. Even on finishing you may be unaware… unless… after a bit you think deeply about it, trying to swim up out of its depths into powerful understanding. Slowly you become mindful. And then you read or listen again. The story retains its power but now you are thinking as well as experiencing.

The author is a New Englander who includes its type incidents, with fine imagery expressed in sentences like this: “The headlights catch a deer bounding across the highway, a wraith that dissolves back into darkness as quickly as it appears.” Story qualities include living characters full of believability, humanity and particularity. You want to spend time with them, spend thought on them. The settings of scenes are realistic, hard; hard meaning not ephemeral or atmospheric; except when these latter qualities are fleetingly, imaginatively experienced. Character relational values are definite — again except where mysteriously atmospheric. The sequencing of these qualities evokes the whole story, wakes it. See the cover for an image — imaginal representation.

Rarely I reveal plots. I don’t even like to read about plots in review. I want to know qualities — of craft, theme, story, character, voice. Story points like these. Also its influence or effect on the reader. I don’t know why I’m like this.

Only, yes, I want to know, perhaps, genre; true triggers, graphic violence or sex, because I’m not interested in reading these.

One more thing. Francesca Forrest’s story “On the Highway” is a New Year’s Eve story. Powerful.

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