Breaking Out of the Form

Most of Elizabeth Stuckey-French’sInterview with a Moron” is written in the stiff voice of a school report. The narrator refers to himself as “Interviewer” and to his institutionalized brother as “Subject.” The tension within the narrator reveals itself in flashes as he breaks his clinical tone to say the things he can’t keep to himself:

She was asked why Subject stood in the hole but said she did not know. When asked if he had dug the hole himself, she said she did not know. When asked how long he’d been doing this, her reply was the same.

Sister should know more than she claims to know.

As the story goes on, the breaks become more and more obvious, until “Interviewer” and “Subject” have a physical altercation in the hole where “Subject” likes to stand:

Subject, not seeming to appreciate or comprehend what he had just been told, asked again why Interviewer had not brought Mother and Father with him.

Interviewer inquired as to why he alone was not sufficient.

Subject said it was because Interviewer was a vile and wicked serpent.

Interviewer reminded Subject that he was the one who had just been crawling around in a filthy hole like a reptile.

Subject reached out and placed his hand on Interviewer’s shoulder, stating that even though Interviewer was a silly, stupid, stubborn man, he pitied Interviewer.

Interviewer knocked Subject’s hand away and said that the only reason he had come to see Subject was because he had been assigned by a professor to interview a moron.

Subject shoved Interviewer.

Interviewer shoved back.

The Interviewer concludes that it’s impossible to reason with a moron, at the end of the clinical report. Thankfully, this is not the end of the story.

The end of the story is written in an entirely different voice, the narrator’s natural voice, and his attitude toward his brother in these final paragraphs is much more tender. There is still the pedantic tone of the Interviewer, however, which is what ties the story’s two voices together:

But with Richard there is never an end to the matter. Against all my counsel, Richard went downtown, distracted the organ-grinder, snatched the monkey, and ran away. He brought the little monkey, whom we named Willie, back to our house in a shoebox. We attempted to hide Willie in Richard’s room, but the creature escaped and Mother caught him pulling the tail feathers out of her stuffed cockatoo. It was an extremely unpleasant day at the Lee house.

This more natural voice, though still taking a superior attitude, is able, at the story’s true end, to finally reveal “Interviewer’s” feelings about “Subject.” Though things happen in the story that might suggest an action plot–the fight–I’d say the real plot lies in the contortions it takes for Interviewer to admit that he sees his brother as a human.

The story was published in Narrative Magazine, and is one of the finalists for the Million Writers Award. Voting ends today.


One response to “Breaking Out of the Form

  1. Pingback: Million Writers Award Winners Announced « Words, Words, Words

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