Joseph Young

Easter Rabbit

Reviewed by: Antonios Maltezos

 Vestal Review, the oldest magazine of flash fiction                                                                    Web Issue 38

Publishing Genius Press
ISBN: 10: 0-9820813-4-0
ISBN: 13: 978-0-9820813-4-1
93 pages; $13.95
Publication date: 2009
Date reviewed:
Index: Literary Short Fiction 

The Art of Joseph Young’s Micro-fiction 

Practitioners describe flash as a revealing snapshot carefully chosen to tell a story. The word “flash” implies a strobe light effect, focusing our attention on what we’re exposed to in that brief moment in time, the mind and imagination lighting the darkness in between. But it takes a good writer of micro-fiction to make time stand nearly still, at the precise moment when the light is most revealing.

Easter Rabbit, Joseph Young’s collection of micro-fiction, is replete with such moments, finely tuned images designed to hold our attention long enough for the imagination to take over, for the art within these framed canvasses to unlock their secrets.   

As an admirer of Joseph Young’s work, I’m aware he has collaborated with visual artists, placing his “texts next to their work on gallery walls in various ways.” Quite extra-ordinary considering how the artist, in general, will pair up with his medium for life—the painter with his canvas, the sculptor with his clay, the writer with the printed page; the single-minded devotion to the medium almost religious. But in this age of hybrids, it seems quite natural for Joseph Young to want to manipulate space and time much as the painter does, by capturing a moment that only seems devoid of arc if the reader is unwilling to participate. For the open mind, however, we aren’t simply dropped in the moment, but within the folds of a lifelong struggle for balance and meaning, some measure of reward:

“The noodles boil to paste, blacken, catch fire. She comes home and throws the pot into the snow, a hissing startled crow. Upstairs, she finds him asleep, eyes clenched to the plumes of acrid smoke. She slides beside him, has dreamsacres of corn-stalk, winter ragpinioned by the wing of his arm.” 
On Not to See a Bird 

I asked Young about his notion of time and the narrative, and the possibilities therein. His response:

“That’s been a goal of mine, to reduce narrative to almost no time at all, to still have a story working its way through time but for that time to be as close to zero as possible. This of course has something to do with me writing such short stories, but it also rises out of my interest in visual art, how a photo or painting conveys narrative but in a timeless unit, one frame on the canvas.”

There’s a recognizable passage of time in the story, On Not to See a Bird. She moves through the house, after all. But it isn’t until we reach the end (53 words) that we can fully appreciate what Joseph Young has done with his canvas. Time, here, does not move from left to right, as with the printed page, but from the persistent reader back through the layers of Young’s micro portrait of these two lives together. In essence, we become the gallery patron paused before a work of art as it slowly reveals.   




Copyright 2010 Antonios Maltezos